From Dusk Till Dawn, by Albert W. Vogt III

There is not much good to say about From Dusk Till Dawn (1996).  I suppose you can believe that I am writing this review because it is the Halloween season, and it is essentially a monster film.  Otherwise, there is little in it to recommend it, and as such I will not be doing so by the time that you get to the end of this review.  This is because of the plethora of questionable material found therein.  It is full of foul language, violence, vampires (which seem to be the villain of choice when Hollywood wants to combine horror and raunch), and far too much skin than is necessary for any civilized audience.  The one and only saving grace in it is Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel), a down-on-his-luck preacher who happens to be in the wrong places and the wrong times.  You will see in a moment the reason for the plurals.

Before we get to Jacob, we meet the real main character of From Dusk Till Dawn, Seth Gecko (George Clooney) and his brother Richard (Quentin Tarantino) or Richie for short.  As might be expected from the introduction, these are not good guys, particularly Richie.  They rob a liquor store, killing the clerk and a sheriff who had been in the area and decided to investigate.  They then burn the building to the ground.  They also have a female hostage with them, who is later raped and murdered by Richie shortly after they check into a motel.  This happens while Seth is away.  He had been meeting with Carlos (Cheech Marin), a crime boss who has agreed to help the Gecko brothers go on the run.  The plan had been to use their hostage to get over the border into Mexico.  Now they must find someone else.  This is when they encounter Jacob, along with his adopted son Scott (Ernest Liu) and his biological daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis), both teenagers.  The Fullers are on a family vacation in a recreational vehicle (RV) in the wake of the death of Jacob’s wife, which has also caused him to begin to doubt his faith.  To the Geckos, they provide the perfect cover for them to get into Mexico, provided Richie does not do anything foolish with Kate.  This potential act is a motivation for Jacob to behave normally as they go through customs at the border.  Seth adds his own threats, saying he will let the Fullers live if they cooperate.  He also says they cannot leave until they meet up once more with Carlos.  Now in Mexico, they head to the rendezvous point requested by Carlos.  It is an absolute hole (literally) of a motorcycle/trucker bar with the unfortunate name “The Titty Twister.”  There are plenty of representatives of that crowd, and they are filling the establishment for a night of debauchery.  Remarkably, the bouncer will not let Kate and Scott inside until Seth essentially bullies their way in.  An agitated Seth orders everyone to settle in for some drinks, but they are soon accosted by more bouncers.  A fight ensues in the middle of a performance by one of the ladies named Satanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek).  During the scuffle, Richie is cut, spilling blood.  Seeing the essence of Richie on the floor, Satanico transforms into a vampire and attacks Richie.  Seth manages to kill her, but more bar employees are revealing themselves to be blood suckers.  It also turns out that there are two seasoned vampire hunters amongst the revelers, Frost (Fred Williamson) and somebody going by Sex Machine (Tom Savini).  Between them, the Fullers, and Seth (who has to kill his brother after he turns into a vampire), they manage to survive the initial onslaught.  Unfortunately, Sex Machine had been bitten, though he conceals it while Frost explains the situation and how to kill these monsters.  By the end of it, Sex Machine is now fully a blood sucker, and he goes after Frost.  In their tussle, Sex Machine’s teeth sink into Frost’s flesh before the latter throws the former through the wall.  This results in a swarm of bats entering the bar, all of which are vampires.  Unfortunately, Jacob has also been bitten in the process.  They manage to flee to a secure store room where they find two things.  The first is actually a lot of things, as in a treasure trove of items, presumably taken from truckers who became victims of this den of vampires.  The other is Jacob’s faith.  Believing they do not have long before either Jacob turns or the others get in, they make as many weapons as they can out of what they take from the store room.  Further (and this is of particular interest to this Catholic), Jacob makes holy water and puts it into condoms, making holy water grenades.  Now ready, they decide to take the fight to the vampires.  It goes fairly well until Jacob finally becomes a vampire and attacks Scott.  In response, with several of the monsters bearing down on her brother, Kate shoots and explodes several of the grenades at once, taking out many vampires.  There are still more to come, and now Kate and Seth are back-to-back in the middle of the room and out of options.  They are saved, though, when they realize that it is morning and the sun’s rays are beginning to peek through the numerous holes in the walls.  Since vampires are deathly allergic to sunlight, they begin making more holes, and are able to save themselves.  The rest are taken care of when Carlos and his bodyguards burst through the doors.  Once outside, Seth has some choice words with Carlos as to where they had agreed to meet.  Seth then hands a befuddled Kate a stack of money and departs.

If you want to call the ending of From Dusk Till Dawn happy, then I would question your idea of happiness.  It is a pretty thoroughly evil, and the protagonist is not really a good guy.  What I can say for it, though, is that I appreciate the fact that the vampires are portrayed as evil.  One of the things this Catholic has always noted about these monsters is that they are killed when exposed to the sun.  There is a parallel here between vampires being condemned to eternal darkness and God representing light.  And the light always triumphs.  Other than this aspect, the character I like best is Jacob, though it is a shame that he had to become a blood sucker and die.  There is nothing like being confronted with supernatural evil to remind you that there is a God.  For most of us, this is more of an abstract exercise, God included.  Our lives are seldom disturbed by such encounters, if ever, and we tend to grow lax in our belief in an all-seeing good and an ever-present bad.  So many leave the Faith, even without major events like the passing of a loved one, because the warnings from the pulpit about what is out there seem so far away in the face of our daily activities.  Still, sure enough, people reach to God in times of extreme stress because intuitively we know that there must be something bigger that can help us in these moments.  For Jacob, the return is easier as he had the requisite training as a minister.  Incidentally, in case you are wondering about the holy water scene, at least in the Catholic Church only priests or deacons can bless water and make it holy.  Jacob is not a Catholic, but at least a man of the cloth, so I guess that counts for something.  Either way, just know that God is real and there for you, with or without vampires.

From Dusk Till Dawn is not a good movie.  They could not even get “Till” right, which should be “’til” as that is the correct abbreviation of “until.”  If you want a movie where you have good standing up to evil, I could recommend a whole host of other films for you other than this one.  I would avoid it.


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