31 Days of Hell: From Dusk Till Dawn

We continue the 31 Days of Hell with a little movie called From Dusk Till Dawn.

"Welcome aboard the Winnebago
to Hell!!!!!"
There is an expression we like to say around here at The Movie Sleuth, and it certainly applies to the film you’re about to read about: “You can only see a movie for the first time once.” Many filmgoers resist the urge to revisit films that pull a fast one on us that catches us off guard—the surprise becomes what we remember. Think about the first time you saw The Sixth Sense or Fight Club, during those closing moments in the theater when gasps of shock and audible surprise gave credence to the tingle of endorphins nibbling at your skin. You’ll never achieve that level of high with that film again. Once the cat is out of the bag, you can never get it back in. Some films can really suffer on repeat viewings because of this. Others are like From Dusk Till Dawn.

Penned by Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez’s film of From Dusk Till Dawn begins as a road movie, and transforms midway into a full blooded horror movie, without even touching the brakes or even signaling before changing lanes. A gleefully funny ode to 80s horror, the film stars George Clooney and Tarantino as two criminals on the run who snatch a couple hostages on the way: Harvey Keitel as a hardened priest and Juliette Lewis as his daughter. As Clooney and Tarantino’s faces appear on the 6:00 news while bodies of innocent bystanders continue to pile up on their sojourn through the desert, the gang happens upon a strip club with far more than they (or we) could have possibly imagined.

"Boys. Boys. I'm over here. Hello."
Tarantino’s ultra-violent screwball comedy derives its cool power by following through with its drastic genre shift without looking back. Part of the ongoing subgenre of cinematic homage, many horror icons such as visual effects maestros Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero make their presence known with some memorial cameos. Although some of the CGI is dated, From Dusk Till Dawn holds up remarkably well in the technical department and represents one of the last movies Robert Rodriguez would shoot on film. In a way, Dawn is the pinnacle of the director’s oeuvre, as well as his frequent collaborations with Tarantino.

Much like later offerings in this category such as Shaun of the Dead, Rodriguez’s picture don’t skimp on the violence, the laughs, or the blood: There’s something here for everyone. It’s the perfect collaboration of two distinct filmmakers having a blast with playing a tired concept for laughs, injecting it with pure adrenaline, and somehow making every cliche into a magic bullet that goes for the jugular and funny bone simultaneously. All the while, we are treated to that pristinely stylish Tarantino dialogue that can take characters and turn them into Characters—creations of such bombastic fun and unique energy that they etch a small place into our hearts for decades.

"Is this Tattoine?"
While Dawn may have spawned many direct-to-video sequels and a television series, the proverbial cat is out of the bag. Everyone knows what kind of supernatural thriller they’re dealing with just by glancing at the cover, but viewers in 1996 couldn’t have been more surprised and dumbfounded by where From Dusk Till Dawn took them. For the uninitiated to our Spoiler Free site, my friendly suggestion is to go into this film with an open mind, not knowing when or how the blood will begin to flow. Just strap your asses in and enjoy the ride.

-Blake O. Kleiner
-Andrew Kotwicki