Terribly Awesome!: From Dusk Till Dawn

Cinefilles, it’s time for a camp-out! And no, we ain’t talkin’ s’mores, sing-a-longs and psycho killers (although, they may very well make questionable individual appearances). We’re talking about getting in touch with your guilty pleasure zone. So join us as Emily (our resident camp connoisseur) leads you through one of the best of the worst movies of all-time. It’s gonna be awesome—and terrible!—all at the same time.

Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez’s not-quite-forgotten, but not-quite revered “action extravaganza” (Ebert’s words via my DVD case, not mine) From Dusk Till Dawn may have come out sixteen years ago today, but I think would be quite at home in January 2012.

Okay, check it. The 1996 horror comedy stars recent Golden Globe winner and Best Actor Oscar contender George Clooney (who you might remember was my reason for December’s tribute to Return to Horror High), and The Firm’s leading lady and Twit-disturber Juliette Lewis. Also, like this week’s new Underworld film, it features a kickass female heroine (Lewis) and some seriously batshit creatures of the night. And, despite his somewhat questionable taste in modern cinema, we’re always itching for more Tarantino (Django Unchained is already our favourite Christmas present).

I hope you’re hungry, fellow lovers of all things equally awful and awesome. Cause you’re about to feast your eyes on a buffet of blood, bikers, Salma Hayek’s boobs and one hell of a fiery arm tattoo.

WHY IT’S TERRIBLE:

  • Tarantino plays Richie Gecko, Clooney’s character’s brother (!!) and a serial murder/rapist with a thing for young girls (!!!!!!) and feet. And he does it a little too well. (No wonder he earned a Razzie nom for the role.)
  •  Tarantino’s personal foot fetish is once again highlighted as his script includes a scene in which Richie sucks on Salma Hayek’s toes while a whole bar watches. You just know this is why he passed on directing and took on the vile role.
  • If the pictures  above weren’t icky enough, Richie has a totally revolting hallucination about Juliette Lewis, who is definitely not supposed to be legal age in her role (in real life, she was in her 20s). And when he first meets her, as she comes in from a dip in the hotel pool and finds her brother and dad (Harvey Keitel!) held at gunpoint, he tells her that they are “having a bikini contest, and [she] just won.”
  • Later on, Clooney, who is clearly disgusted by his bro’s behaviour in the first half of the film, clearly starts flirting with Lewis. By the end you’re almost rooting for them to get together. G-ross.
  • Some of the vamped out creature make-up looks awfully similar to that done on the title creeper of the Season 1 Buffy the Vampire Slayer ep, “Reptile Boy.” And that is not a complement.
  • The majority of the action goes down at a middle-of-the-desert strip club/trucker drinking hole called The Titty Twister. In other words, if you can’t handle crazy nip slips and nasty one-liners about lower lady parts, you’re going to be turned way off.
  • Unsurprisingly, QT makes one ugly ass motherfucking bloodsucker.

WHY IT’S AWESOME!:

  •  Always a good sign. At least in the ’90s. (Don’t see: The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl, My Boss’ Daughter, Children of the Corn: Revelation … )
  • As mentioned in the intro, it’s directed by Robert Rodriguez and written by Quentin Tarantino, those way weird BFFs who most recently brought us the awesome B-movie double feature tribute, Grindhouse. 
  • The majority of the action goes down at a middle-of-the-desert strip club/trucker drinking hole called The Titty Twister. Which only operates from dusk till dawn. Because it is filled with vampires.
  • Clooney plays salt-and-peppery bank robber Seth Gecko, who just wants to get help his despicable brother a better life in the mythical Mexican land of El Ray. After helping Richie break out of the pen in broad daylight, they hit the open road, picking off gas stations and picking up an RV of hostages (Lewis, Keitel and Scott Fuller) before heading to the TT to meet up with the dudes who are going to help them get across the border.
  • Seth Gecko calls vampires “satantic cocksuckers.”
  • According to IMDB’s trivia section for the film, Tarantino chose Cloons for the role because he was headlining TV’s ER at the time of the casting and QT liked the fact that he was going from “saving people in the ER to playing a character who sends them to the ER.”
  • Remember how I mentioned a fiery arm tatt? Well, lookie here:
  • This film marks the debut of foul-mouthed law man Earl McGraw, who you may remember from Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and both Grindhouse flicks (Rodriguez‘ Planet Terror and Tarantino’s Death Proof).
  • Keitel plays Jacob Fuller, a former man of God who comes to the spiritual rescue when the vamps awake (think blessing holy water, making makeshift crosses).
  • COOL GUYS DON’T LOOK AT EXPLOSIONS.
  • There are obvious nods to Pulp Fiction (Seth brings Big Kahuna burgers back to their hotel room!) and Desperado …
  • … one of which is a penis gun, fired by the most badass mofo you’ll ever meet (sorry, Samuel L.): Sex Machine.
  • Sex Machine is played by none other than The Godfather of Gore himself,  actor/director/stuntman/horror make-up artiste Tom Savini.
  • The straight-to-DVD sequel, From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, stars Bruce FUCKING Campbell and Tiffani (Amber/Kelly Kawpowski)-Thiessen.
  • The full-length documentary about the making of the film is called Full-Tilt Boogie. And if you’re lucky, it comes as bonus disk with your FDTD DVD!
  •  Is that John Hawkes (Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene) joking about qualifying for an “Academy Award in being unnatural” while being held hostage? Oh Quentin, you sassy psychic swamp woman.
  • A five-second cameo from Nancy Thompson’s pops – John Saxon? We’ll take it!
  • Salma Hayek plays the Titty Twister’s top dancer and the reptilian fanger seen in the AWFUL section. And she goes by the name Satanico Pandemonium.  And I think she may have been the inspiration for Britney’s “Slave 4 U” video.
  • Also workin’ the bar, but not in a sexy way? Machete himself, Danny Trejo!
  • And sitting at the bar? Footballer and blaxpolitation star Fred Williamson! If QT doesn’t write a prequel, cast Williamson as the lead and call it I’m Gon Git You Bloodsucka!, I might have to.
  • When the bar turns into the vamp lair it really is, the gorgeous-faced strippers turn into dogs (no sparkles here!) and the mariachi band’s instruments get some new skins.
  •  Even after “vamping out” … Trejo’s signature crater face seems to be unchanged.
  • Gore whores, you’re gonna get some. And then some. The body count of the film is a whopping 122.
  • Some of the non-scaly monster make-up is so good, it could be straight out of The Thing or the Evil Dead movies. And, for those of you who haven’t seen ED or the 1980s Thing, that is a definite compliment. Although, it also kind of makes you wish the title was actually Dead By Dawn.
  • HOLY WATER-FILLED CONDOMS.
  • At one point Keitel’s character asks, “Has anybody here read a real book about vampires? Or are we just remembering what some movie said?”Sex Machine responds, “Like a Time Life book?”
  • Although the weapon of mass demon destruction is really the Titty Twister disco ball reflecting off the sun (!), you could argue that it’s also Juliette Lewis. Armed with a cross-bow, a bellyful of booze and reckless desire for revenge, girl would make Buffy proud.
  • The final shot of the film is actually brilliant. I’d screencap it, but I think I’ve spoiled enough for you.
  • This filthy, filthy scene, courtesy of Cheech Marin (now co-starring on CBS’ new Rob Schneider sitcom, Rob!), who plays not one, but three roles including Titty Twister owner, Chet Pussy.
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