The Schlock VaultRating: 5 of 5 yaps
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
You could accuse “From Dusk Till Dawn” of being a parody, or more accurately a loving tribute to schlock films of the 1960s and 70s, and you’d be completely right.
And its a- and b-list cast, including George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, Harvey Keitel, Salma Hayek, Fred Williamson, Cheech Marin, Tom Savini, not to mention its star power behind the camera (Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez), but “Dawn” is, make no mistake about it, unmitigated craziness from frame 1 to end.
In a two-part narrative, escaped convict Seth Gecko (Clooney) is busted from the slam by his brother Ritchie (Tarantino), and the duo go on a crime spree, robbing, raping and murdering in no particular order. The film starts off in grand Tarantino fashion with a fantastic pre-credits scene that unfolds at a liquor store that Seth and Ritchie are h0lding up. It ends, literally, in fireworks.
From there the Gecko brothers hijack an RV driven by a faithless preacher (Keitel) and his kids (Lewis and Ernest Liu) and force them to smuggle them across the border to Mexico.
They stop at a bar called the Titty Twister, a rough and tumble trucker’s bar that, it turns out, is full of vampires. Yes, vampires. The rest of the film is almost non-stop carnage as the vamps feast upon the clientele, leaving Seth and the gang fighting for their lives.
To say the film takes a nasty turn would be an understatement. bodies are ripped apart and put back together in unnatural ways to create grisly musical instruments, hearts are devoured (and impaled with pencils), disembodied heads bounce across the bar, and blood and other bodily fluids spray all over the place.
Visually the film is outstanding, with good effects (though it’s obvious when CG is employed, it’s not used too much), the quips are giddily groan-inducing, and the action is intense, if over-the-top. Rodriguez and Tarantino were among the first to really make their vampires out-and-out monsters, as opposed to the nobleman-type vampires that had been all the rage, or even the goth-punk vampires from films like “The Lost Boys.” Here there vampires are grotesque, demonic creatures, but with soft bodies that something as dull as a table leg can pierce.
Clooney plays a great antihero who manages to be sympathetic even when he’s a complete bastard (and we see him as thus many times), but he still has principles, as strange as that sounds.
The film is wickedly funny and full of small personal choices, such as what Seth should do when someone close to him becomes a vampire. Kill him, or kill those trying to kill him?
Oh, and there’s That Salma Hayek Table Dance (which is used with capital letters to denote it’s a proper noun). She has a snake and that’s about all I can say about that.
If you haven’t seen “Dusk” it’s certainly a must-see (and must-see again and again). It’s pure b-movie magic that’s smarter, funnier, gorier and better than most a-list films out there.