From Dusk till Dawn

From Dusk till Dawn, directed by Robert Rodriguez, is a movie set in the borderland region of West Texas and Northern Mexico. It’s been on my radar for some time, but it’s taken me a while to finally watch it. Released in 1996, this movie tells the story of two brothers on the run from the law. At a motel, they take a family hostage and flee across the border to Mexico. The brothers go to a strip club to wait for their contacts only to find the strip club is, in fact, home to a nest of vampires. The exact fictional settings are a little vague, although it’s implied the motel is in El Paso. Much of the film was made near Barstow, California, where I was born. The edition of the film I watched included the bonus movie Full-Tilt Boogie, which is a documentary about the making of From Dusk till Dawn.

One of the things that makes this movie interesting is that it takes its time introducing the horror elements. As noted in Full-Tilt Boogie, a lot of horror movies get right to the scary parts, but the best horror novels often give you a chance to become acquainted with the characters before throwing them into the horrific situation. This allows you to care more whether or not the characters make it out the other side. The mix of characters was interesting, because the Gecko brothers were not sympathetic at all. Both of them are murderers and one of them is a rapist. However, the family they kidnap is relatable. We meet a dad and his two children. The dad is a minister who recently lost his wife and suffers a crisis of faith.

Once the vampires are introduced, the movie is mostly about action as the human characters fight to survive the night. I thought the strip club was an interesting front for a nest of vampires. It allows vampires in their sexier human form to lure the unsuspecting into their trap. Beyond that, we learn little about the vampires themselves until a compelling hint about their origins and how it might be tied to history and mythology is dropped in the movie’s last scene. I won’t discuss the specifics in case that would spoil it for anyone, but I gather the hint is developed in the made-for-TV sequels and TV series. The vampires themselves are portrayed as pure monsters and they take many different forms.

Although it’s ostensibly a vampire film, the plot structure involving sympathetic characters mixed up with gangsters followed by a frightening second act reminded me most of my novel The Astronomer’s Crypt, which is also set in the borderland region. You can learn more about that novel at: http://davidleesummers.com/Astronomers-Crypt.html.

Even though my Scarlet Order vampires are not outwardly monstrous, they do have ties to history and world lore, including Native American cultural lore. I would have enjoyed more exploration of these ideas in From Dusk till Dawn and may have to watch at least some of the TV series to see how they explore it there. The best place to see these ideas explored in my writing is in my novel Vampires of the Scarlet order. Learn more about it at: http://davidleesummers.com/VSO.html

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