Quentin Tarantino scripted and Directed by Robert Rodriguez, From Dusk till Dawn is a genre mashing, deeply violent, sometimes funny crime-horror-drama-comedy that pulls you close with a left jab before knocking you unconscious with a right hook. Two bank robbing brothers (George Clooney & Quentin Tarantino) are on the run in Texas, heading to the Mexican border. Along the way they take a Preacher (Harvey Keitel) and his children (Juliette Lewis & Ernest Liu) hostage in their RV. Once in Mexico the criminals head to a bar where they wait out the night for their connection to take them to a safe house. The bar turns into a blood bath though as the robbers and their captives’ battle to survive an onslaught from ravenous vampires.
Famous for its violence, unusual script and Salma Hayek’s toe whiskey, From Dusk till Dawn is a fast faced, comedic horror which takes the audience by surprise following a Tarantino-esque opening forty-five minutes. Its use of animatronics and physical effects also takes it back to the 1980s and before the use of computer generated special effects. Rodriguez combines the two methods to create some realistic looking creatures but always maintains a slapstick element to the effects and comedy.
I don’t remember when I first saw From Dusk Till Dawn but I can still remember the feeling of shock when the genre turns at the mid point. I wasn’t aware of it beforehand and was expecting a Reservoir Dogs type of violent and well scripted crime thriller which the first half had produced. The second half is a revelation and unlike anything I’ve seen. It is never scary but really funny in places with the gruesome violence producing a lot of the laughs. The use of humorous deaths such as four vampire strippers impaled on each corner of an upturned table and a dissolving vampire’s eyeballs rolling into the pockets of a pool table are brilliantly original and yet reminded me of the kind of slapstick that you’d find in a Chaplin or Keaton film. Not surprisingly Robert Rodriguez credits both stars as having influence on his career.
The dialogue and characters are well written and had the second half not turned into a manic bloodbath I’d have been happy for it to continue down the road it was going. George Clooney stars in one of his first lead roles and plays off type to his modern Clooney image. He is well cast though as he has a creepy charm to him. Quentin Tarantino is also well cast and if anything his uneven acting adds to the role. His character is deranged and psychotic and Tarantino’s stilted delivery and childlike menace works well with the character. Harvey Keitel is quite good but is well within his comfort zone, even when battling vampires and Juliette Lewis is really good as the jailbait daughter. There are also appearances from Rodriguez and Tarantino regulars Danny Trejo and Michael Parks and a great small cameo from John Hawkes. Salma Hayek gives a scene stealing performance as a seductive dancer and her scene is certainly one that is hard to forget.
One of my favourite things about the film are the special effects. I’m a bit fan of ‘real’ effects, especially when delivered in the computer age. The effects reminded me of the likes of David Cronenberg’s The Fly and John Carpenter’s The Thing as well as the films of Wes Craven and Roger Corman but with the added comedy I was also reminded of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which began a year after the movie’s release. Although the effects are good and the script is interesting, the film is not without its flaws. Once the vampires are revealed, instead of feeling like a relentless onslaught, it sometimes feels a bit samey and it is only the violence which keeps it ticking over from then on. On the whole though From Dusk till Dawn is a gruesome but fun horror-comedy which delivers enough blood, jokes and surprises to satisfy fans of multiple genres and annoy the Daily Mail reading right who wont get it.
- Seth Returns to the Motel with Big Kahuna burgers, a chain which appears in four of Tarantino's films.
- Salma Hayek's fear of snakes nearly lost her the part after Robert Rodriguez told her that Madonna was ready to take the part. This was a lie.
- Before Clooney was cast, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Walken, Tim Roth and John Travolta were all offered the part.