FROM DUSK TILL DAWN DVD Review
Directed by Robert Rodriguez, Dwight H. Little, Fede Alvarez, Nick Copus, Joe Menendez and Eduardo Sánchez
Written by Juan Carlos Coto, Diego Gutierrez, Robert Kurtzman, Matt Morgan, Marcel Rodriguez, Robert Rodriguez, Álvaro Rodríguez, Ian Sobel and Quentin Tarantino
2014, Region 2 (PAL), 450 minutes, Rated 18 (UK)
DVD released on 22nd September 2014
D.J. Cotrona as Seth Gecko
Zane Holtz as Richie Gecko
Eiza González as Santánico Pandemonium
Jesse Garcia as Freddie Gonzalez
Madison Davenport as Kate Fuller
Brandon Soo Hoo as Scott Fuller
Television's newfound love affair with horror has brought genre fans a lot, over the past few years, from The Walking Dead, American Horror Story to Penny Dreadful. A new subgenre has also emerged – the TV adaptation of old movies. This has been a more hit-and-miss lot, with a disappointing Bates Motel for every wonderful Hannibal or Fargo. Stuck firmly in the middle of the road is From Dusk Till Dawn, Robert Rodriguez's massively decompressed television adaptation of his own cult favourite vampire film.
How decompressed? So much so that the entire first episode comprises of the film's liquor store holdup, only with a few added characters and a bigger hint at the vampire plot to come. Gone is the movie's successful mid-story tale of genre – although The Titty Twister doesn't appear until halfway through the series, its vamps are scattered throughout; no doubt to hold audience interest while Seth and Richie Gecko oh-so-slowly make their way across America to the Mexican border.
Recast for the TV series, gone are George Clooney and (for better and worse) Quentin Tarantino. While the series' Richie is left free to do his own thing and become his own character (again, for better and worse), D.J. Cotrona's Seth is a bad Clooney impersonation, nailing the accent but completely fumbling the menace or charisma. Robert Patrick is appreciated as the kidnapped family man (a role once filled by an equally appreciated Harvey Keitel) and his kids are fine, but none of them are any substitute for the real thing. Madison Davenport is just the right kind of sweet as daughter Kate, but lacks the intensity (and general awesomeness) of Juliette Lewis. Worse, by normalising Richie to an extent and making him as hot as Seth (in a thick glasses hipster kind of way) it gives the pair an unnecessary chemistry, where Tarantino was all creepy sweat and staring at girls' feet.
It would work better if we were able to take the characters on their own merits, but the story isn't different enough to allow us to do that, Tarantino and Rodriguez's characters too iconic to be easily replaced by a bunch of TV actors. It's when the series does do something left-field that it works. Out goes Tom Savini's Sex Machine, replaced by, um, Jake Busey. The phallic shotgun remains, but everything else is different, with this Sex Machine being a college professor obsessed with ancient vampires. It works precisely because it isn't trying to recreate something that was already done perfectly well. The less said about Santanico Pandemonium the better – mostly because I barely remember her even being in it.
The worst thing about the series is its newest character, dogged lawman Freddie Gonzalez. A ranger with a personal vendetta against the Gecko brothers, the chap is simply uninteresting and bland, badly played by an actor so wooden he could probably be whittled enough to stake a few vampires during the action sequences. The vampires are almost as bad; a gaggle of Mafia-style True Blood rejects completely without mystique or threat. I could have forgiven its sins if they'd at least gotten Danny Trejo involved (the guy currently spends his time selling Old El Paso and making terrible Bad Ass sequels, so it's not as if he's too busy), but no dice.
From Dusk Till Dawn is an infuriating mess. While the old material didn't need redoing or padding out in the first place, the new stuff is dull and tiresome. It has some decent action, fun performances and even a few good ideas, but, ultimately, it's the one thing From Dusk Till Dawn should never be – desperately uncool and surprisingly toothless.
Video and Audio:
The television budget leaves this looking like a cheap Robert Rodriguez imitation. It's appropriately washed out and saturated, and has some good imagery, but completely lacks the appropriate sense of vitality. It sounds the part too, even if the Grindhouse shtick has been overdone in recent years.
Given that the whole thing is already available to stream online for less than £10, one would hope for plenty of special features to justify laying out the extra cash. In terms of quantity it doesn't disappoint, with the first disc being chock full of commentaries, interviews and featurettes. On closer inspection, however, it's revealed that at least half of those features are literally, unironically, commercials for cars and beer. On Set: Brought to you by General Motors is a behind the scenes featurette which consists entirely of shots of cars, while Brought to you by Dos Equis delves into the Titty Twister but goes no further than the beer they serve there. The General Motors commercial has Seth Gecko selling a car, and is followed by a Dos Equis advert that reveals the vampires are just as happy to swap drinking blood for a pint of lager. An advert for Tarantino's fictional burgers and Rodriguez's TV station round out the commercials, and a trailer, 'best kills' video, character featurettes, Comic Con panel interview and (real) making of features round off the extras that aren't trying to sell you something. Full Tilt Boogie this ain't.