“Whew!” That about sums it up for Rodriguez's new film, but what the hell, I'll expound. Written by and co-starring Hollywood's other young, stylistically hip auteur, Quentin Tarantino, From Dusk Till Dawn
harkens back to the wonderful, awful horror movies of days gone by, throws in a criminals-on-the-lam first half, and then not only turns the whole beautiful mess up to 11, but also breaks off the knob and eats it. From Dusk Till Dawn
opens with the notorious Gekko Brothers, Seth and Richard (Clooney and Tarantino), on the run from just about every law enforcement agent in Texas after a heist ends with multiple Texas Rangers and peace officers dead or dying. On their way to Mexico to meet with the mysterious “Carlos,” the pair hijack the mobile home of Minister Jacob Fuller (Keitel) and his family in order to insure the criminals' safe passage across the border. Once across, their appointed destination turns out to be the Titty Twister, a riotously cheesy, neon-covered topless bar catering to bikers and truckers who've wandered off the beaten path. Everything seems more or less well and good, with Seth and Richard prepared to wait out the night for the arrival of Carlos (Marin), until all hell erupts (literally) when the bar's staff and patrons turn out to be Mexican vampires intent on a full-tilt exsanguination binge. From here on out it's 110% Rodriguez Action, with some of the most blood-spattered offerings since Dawn of the Dead
(speaking of which, longtime George Romero-effects master Tom Savini has a sizable role as a crazed biker named, uh, Sex Machine) and a veritable army of Nosferatus clamoring for gore. Very cool. Rodriguez has come a long way since his short film Austin Stories
first took the Chronicle
offices by storm in 1989; his trademark rapid-fire editing and dark, almost lunatic wit are in top form here, and his set direction is exhilarating in the purest sense. Keitel is terrific as the preacher with the slipshod faith, Clooney is nicely menacing, and Marin turns in some of his most raunchy, hilarious work to date. Even Tarantino the Actor acquits himself admirably: Younger Gekko Richard is a perverse sex killer whose resultant carnage is glimpsed almost subliminally in a genuinely creepy motel room scene. Fans of Merchant-Ivory will do well to steer clear of Rodriguez's newest opus, but both action and horror film fans have cause for celebration after what seems like a particularly long splatter-drought. This is horror with a wink and a nod to drive-in theatres and sweaty back seats. This is how it's done.