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From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

Since I’ve been pretty much housebound the past few days due to having covid (my work has different rules to the government and I’ve been pretty rough with it) I’ve been passing the time watching films and generally feeling sorry for myself.

After taking advantage of Sky’s Paramount Plus deal (if you already have Sky Cinema you can get the new Paramount channel for free), Mrs Screen Room Movie Blog and I chose to watch this bad boy from their selection of films on Saturday night.

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

If you haven’t seen this movie and you like either vampire films and/or Tarantino films you’re in for a right treat!

It’s an action/crime/horror directed by Robert Rodriguez (Sin City) that stars George Clooney (in his first major movie role), Quentin Tarantino (who also wrote the screenplay based on the original story by Robert Kurtzman), Harvey Keitel (Pulp Fiction), Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear) and Ernest Liu (in his only notable role).

There are also supporting roles from the likes of Salma Hayek (Eternals), Cheech Marin (Spy Kids), Danny Trejo (Machete), Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead) John Hawkes (Identity) and the late Michael Parks (Kill Bill).

This is what it’s about according to the internet:

“On the run from a bank robbery that left several police officers dead, Seth Gecko (Clooney) and his paranoid, loose-cannon brother, Richard (Tarantino), hightail it to the Mexican border. Kidnapping preacher Jacob Fuller (Keitel) and his kids, the criminals sneak across the border in the family's RV and hole up in a truck-stop bar. As darkness falls and the brothers celebrate their successful escape from the law, they soon realise that they're not in a typical bar, as the entire place begins to teem with vicious, blood-sucking vampires.

With the odds stacked greatly against them, the Geckos are forced to team up with their hostages in order to make it out alive.”

I’ve mentioned before in previous posts that this was one of my most enjoyable cinema experiences, so if you’ve heard this before you might want to skip on a bit. If not, please indulge me while I tell you a little story…

So my sister used to work at our local cinema, The Regal, and as a perk of the job would get two free tickets a week to see any movie. I’d often be offered one of these tickets and would regularly go on my own to watch whatever film was showing at the time.

I was about 16 when this film came out so not only did I benefit from getting in free, but given that it had an 18 certificate in the UK, getting in to see it at all was a bonus!

My sister had told me about this “new vampire film with the guy from E.R in it” and being a huge fan of vampire movies (my favourites at the time being Fright Night and The Lost Boys) I went along excitedly to watch it.

If you’ve seen the film you’ll know that for a good chunk of the movie (about an hour) there’s not a whiff of any vampire action at any point. This lulled me into a false sense of security and, convinced my sister had got her wires crossed and sent me in to watch the wrong film, I settled in and began to enjoy what I'd accepted was a decent “crime thriller”. Little did I know that this confusion would ultimately define my viewing experience.

By the time Richie gets stabbed in the hand in the bar and Salma Hayek turns into a vampire I was so convinced my sister had got it wrong about it being a vampire movie that the change in pace and tone took me totally by surprise! It just made the whole thing even better, not to mention shocking!

For this and many other reasons it remains one of my favourite vampire movies of all time.

Like I said (and if you’ve seen it you’ll know) the two halves of the film couldn’t be more different, and I think that’s what makes it so unique.

In fact, if there hadn’t been any vampires in this movie it would’ve still been a great crime thriller on its own merit!

It’s almost like two different movies starring the same cast were randomly edited together just over half way through and somehow it worked!

The entire cast is incredible, but for me the best performances in the whole film come from Harvey Keitel, and from John Hawkes and Michael Parkes in the liquor store scene at the very beginning of the movie. It’s the best scene in my opinion and I’d be very surprised if it didn’t in some way inspire the gas station scene in No Country for Old Men (2007), but I could be totally wrong about that...

From Dusk Till Dawn was a real launchpad for a few people’s film careers. It was not only George Clooney’s first major movie role (not including 1988’s Return of the Killer Tomatoes!) but it acted as an early stepping stone in a run of successful movies for many of the actors involved, and even the director himself who’s since gone on to direct a load of successful films as well as episodes of both The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett.

With a killer soundtrack including songs by ZZ Top, The Blasters, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Mavericks and Tito & Tarantula (the Titty Twister’s resident vampire band) as well as soundbites from the film, this is an infinitely quotable movie that went on to spawn two straight to dvd sequels (that I’ve never seen) and also a series (which I’ve also never seen).

If you’ve somehow missed it all these years I highly recommend you treat your eyeballs to one of the best and most outrageous vampire films the genre has to offer.

“Well your best better get a hell of a lot f#cking better, or you are gonna feel a hell of a lot f#cking worse!”

Seen it, or any of the sequels or TV show for that matter? Let me know in the comments.

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