Till Dawn (1996)
The movie begins with a tense portrayal of the Geckos' abduction of a family and the interactions of the former two with their hostages. Throughout this segment of the narrative, Rodriguez is able to stir up an affecting sense of fearful anxiety. He reveals the real danger with which both the criminals and their victims are faced so that the moviegoer is constantly aware that terrible violence could erupt at any moment and leave some or all of these persons dead. At various points, the director thus shows how the Geckos are threatened with discovery by the police, how Seth may murder his hostages should they fail to follow his commands, and how Richard, who is undoubtedly unhinged, may either attack any of these persons or attempt to rape Kate.
Once this group has arrived at the bar in Mexico, The Titty Twister, From Dusk till Dawn completely changes its focus, however, and becomes suffused with a wonderfully sleazy, voyeuristic sexuality. The bar itself, which rises up from the middle of a desert and is adorned with plumes of flame and a naughty neon sign depicting a hand tweaking a woman's ample breast, is a ridiculous, campy joy, a goofy realization of some schoolboy's vision of a depraved, sensual hell. Having passed through the tall wooden gates of this iniquitous dive, which are guarded by a bearded, howling, lupine hawker (Cheech Marin), who is loudly lauding the wealth and diversity of pussy the establishment has to offer, the protagonists enter into a vast hall adorned with pseudo-Aztec sculptures and populated with hordes of rough bikers and truckers and numerous bare breasted strippers. For some time after the heroes' arrival at this place, Rodriguez regales the moviegoer with the sight of these women dancing and gyrating lasciviously. Having so aroused a sense of wild abandon, the director then introduces the bikini clad Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek), who, as The Titty Twister's foremost dancer, performs a striptease in which she nearly drives Richard and the others into a frenzy.
The moviegoer, upon watching this sequence, may be struck by the oddness of what he has just seen, but, unless he already knows what the film has in store for him, I doubt if he will be able to foresee its next change in impetus. Once Santanico has performed her dance, the strippers, waitresses, and other employees of The Titty Twister suddenly reveal themselves to be vampires and attack the bar's patrons.
The remainder of the movie presents the protagonists' battles with this army of monstrous, shape-changing undead fiends. With the help of two of the bikers who survive the demons' initial attack, the heroes slaughter one vampire after another with wooden stakes, water Jacob has blessed, which dissolves the creatures' flesh, and whatever else they can use to injure these beings. Not only is this battle exciting, however, it is also infused with a real sense of humor. The protagonists kill ridiculous numbers of the vampires, knock of their heads, pull off their limbs, and so on and so on. The effect is, at once, gruesome and funny.
As jolting as the film's different bizarre twists may be, they actually add to its appeal. In fact, From Dusk till Dawn is a surprisingly clever, deliciously trashy B-movie that never fails to be entertaining.
Review by Keith Allen
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