Friday, 15 August 2014

From Dusk till Dawn (1996)



Back in 1986 there was a small low budget horror movie called 'Vamp' starring Grace Jones as a supreme vampiress Goddess and owner of a seedy strip joint full of seedy hooker-esque strippers...it was spanklicious! Then along came Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez and they basically completely ripped off the entire idea, thus we have this heavily Mexican influenced horror splatter fest.

I saw this film on release in the cinema back in the day and I thoroughly enjoyed it, this hasn't changed. I think the fun fact with this film is that it works on two levels, as we all know the film is basically one story that U-turns into another, but both work really well. The first half of the film which focuses on the 'Gecko Brothers' is a violent unapologetic crime spree road trip following the duo on the lamb. Its a strange combination of ice cool badassery and actual nastiness leaving you unsure whether you should be rooting for these two guys.



Lets face it, Clooney is the slightly charming good looking cool headed leader of the pair sporting a horribly dated tribal tattoo. This guy makes you think its fun and sexy to be a criminal on the run from the law...in a cool car to boot. Then you have Tarantino who is a scrawny whiny bespectacled creep who lies and kills people for no reason, he also appears to be a sexual predator and kills (possibly raping) women. Now together this pair do make a fun fast talking duo of deperados admittedly, their bickering is amusing and well performed, visually they look quite unique in their appearance and attire and they are badass motherf*ckers. The thing is they do commit some really quite nasty crimes along the way which is played for dark laughs but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. You can't help but feel they get what they deserve in the end and I personally find it hard to feel any emotion or sympathy for either character. Its like...oh yeah its sad for 'Seth' when 'Richie' gets killed...but wait, didn't he kill an innocent female by putting a pillow over her head and shooting her in the face?! Oh and didn't Seth burn that innocent (and cooperative) liquor store worker to death??!!

The main crux of this film is of course the second part of the story when the duo reach the 'Titty Twister' in the middle of nowhere, Mexico. From a dark graphic novel style violent crime thriller to an over the top, balls to the wall, in your face soft porn vampire slaughter. What I like about this section of the film is the fact they use hands-on effects, the whole gamut of traditional methods from models and puppets to bucket loads of goo and gore. I think there is a small amount of CGI for the bats and face morphing but mostly all the death and destruction is utilising classic live action gore effects and some lovely makeup work that I'm sure Savini had a hand in. Even though the Titty Twister is an obvious set it still looks the business both inside and out with clever use of props and camera angles. You know there aren't that many vampires, you know the bar set isn't that big, you know the outside is restricted for space etc...but with the odd lorry parked in the right position, good editing, some clever tricks and even an old fashioned matte painting Rodriguez is able to present a much bigger universe on a tight budget.

I think this part of the film has its ups and downs honestly. Its definitely a rip roaring brutal cadaver fest which is great fun but as the film progresses towards the finale it does become so over the top with the gore and action it loses its grip and edge. The effects seem to get a little weaker towards the end as though they were running out of cash and time. The makeup is still great but some of the creatures looked pretty ropy truth be told, what was that huge rat monster Clooney fights?! kudos for trying but the rod puppet animation used for that thing was hokey looking. I also always wondered why Hayek's character seems to turn into a humanoid reptile, that's what it looked like didn't it? not very vampire-like. The various exploding melting head close ups rock but most of the body suits and large vampire bats look very rubbery and fake right at the end.

There is no doubt this is another great example of Rodriguez's visual style and somewhat over self-indulgent obsession with the Mexican theme. The added bonus of a solid cast of Tarantino regulars and aging cult stars really gives the adventure a shot in the arm too, had this been cast with any standard Hollywood stars it may not have been as appealing. I mean lets face it, this film introduced us to Hayek, Trejo and to a degree Marin for some folk...loved how he plays multiple characters and pulls it off!

A true popcorn flick harking back to the good old days of 80's splatter comedy horror. What's more it makes you wanna see more of the Gecko Brothers with a prequel and easily a sequel following Seth. I won't deny the first half of the film felt vicious and a tad unpleasant, could almost say a fail for what they were clearly going for, but what horror/action fan can say they didn't get a solid kick out of the biker mayhem that followed. Easily my fave film involving and starring Tarantino, I just loved how they did his vampire makeup too, did you notice how his skull had a massive chin?

7/10