FROM DUSK TILL DAWN (director/editor: Robert Rodriguez; screenwriters: Quentin Tarantino/Robert Kurtzman (story); cinematographer: Guillermo Navarro; cast: Quentin Tarantino (Richie Gecko), George Clooney (Seth Gecko), Juliette Lewis (Kate Fuller), Harvey Keitel (Jacob Fuller), Ernest Liu (Scott Fuller), Salma Hayek (Santanico Pandemonium), Tom Savini (Sex Machine), Fred Williamson (Frost), Cheech Marin (Border Guard/Chet Pussy/Carlos), Michael Parks (Texas Ranger), Brenda Hillhouse (Hostage Gloria); Runtime: 108; Dimension Films; 1996)
“The characters were as empty as the story.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s a love it or hate it film. I simply hated it. On its menu for fun, is a violent feast served up as charm and done in a tongue-and-cheek manner. It’s a serial killer/horror film farce of nonstop over-the-top action and sleaze, involving decapitations, vampires, biker fights, extended gun play, and an array of gore that has to be seen to be believed. A film that regales in its vulgarity and camp, as it goes out of its way to spoof the clichés of the conventional B-films. It’s geared only for the cult film crowd.
The plot involves two psychopath brothers. The older professional bank robber and killer Seth Gecko (Clooney) and the younger perverted psychopath killer, Richie (Tarantino), who kills for pleasure and is also a rapist. They escape jail and go on a killing spree in Wichita and then flee to rob a liquor store in a small Texas border town. They have just robbed a bank and killed a number of cops, they have also taken a middle-aged bank teller as a hostage. In the liquor store they kill a Texas Ranger and the store clerk, and burn down the store. Stopping off in a flop-house motel, Richie rapes and slaughters the hostage. These scenes are all done with an eye for comedy and parody, if that’s possible. On the TV news, it says they have killed 16 so far and most are Texas Rangers.
The brothers plan to get to Mexico and meet Carlos (Cheech), who will give them a place of sanctuary for thirty percent of their illegal take. With road blocks and car searches at the border, the brothers commandeer a motor home of a vacationing family who stopped at their motel so that the father could sleep in a real bed. The family consists of: the father, Jacob Fuller (Keitel), who just resigned as a minister because he lost faith ever since his wife died in a car accident; his sexy 20-year-old, innocent daughter, Kate (Lewis); and, her shy brother Scott (Liu). It’s not explained how he happens to be Chinese.
The story really becomes bizarre when they get across the border and get ready to meet Carlos in a bar/whorehouse for truckers and bikers called the Titty Twister. The place is open from dawn to dusk, thus the film’s title. Here’s where Rodriguez has a chance to throw convention out the window and have some absurd fun, as the place turns out to be a vampire hangout. It sells sex to its patrons, and has exotic stripper Santanico Pandemonium (Hayek) do her alluring strip before turning into a vampire. The brothers and their hostages have to fight their way out of the place, as the vampires keep coming and the killings become the film’s staple.
There were a few funny moments in a film that was dripping with special effects and spent most of its script in finding novel ways to showcase its killings. I’ll take a pass on this one, it’s just not my style of a film. The characters were as empty as the story.
REVIEWED ON 7/24/2001 GRADE: C-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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