Starring Marco Leonardi, Michael Parks, Rebecca Gayheart, Danny Trejo, Ara Celi
Directed by PJ Pesce
Distributed by Echo Bridge Entertainment
From Dusk Till Dawn should’ve been a one-and-done. Sure, a good chunk of the fun came from watching a ridiculously violent and over-the-top vampire film spurt all kinds of blood and crazy FX across the screen in a decade that desperately needed it. But an even greater sense of fun came from catching the film in theaters with unsuspecting audiences who were looking for another straight-up Quentin Tarantino crime/thriller starring that hunky guy from “ER.” Folks who would normally never pay to see a vampire movie were caught off guard when the Desperate Hours-style narrative jumped out the window, leaving a gore-soaked fight for survival in its wake without skipping a beat.
But it should’ve ended there.
Because when a film hinges so much on the element of surprise there’s nowhere else to go in a sequel. The filmmakers behind Texas Blood Money (the second film in the series, if anyone’s counting) understood that and chose to meld the vampire genre with a different type of crime movie – the heist film. It still didn’t work out all that well, although it was perhaps a so-so way to kill an afternoon in a pinch. And the same can probably be said for The Hangman’s Daughter, although now we’re onto the third film in the series and boy has it become stale.
This is essentially a straight-up remake of the original, only with a 19th Century period setting. A group of unlikeable bandito characters raid a stagecoach, take prisoners and go on the run. They’re pursued by the Hangman and a group of lawmen because our main character, Johnny Madrid, has been romancing the titular daughter. They wind up at “The Devil’s Nipple” (the future Titty Twister) where, unsurprisingly, a haven of vampires lie in wait.
Considering we’ve seen this exact film once before, it doesn’t offer much in the way of surprises. Unlike the original, it’s easy to predict who will live and who will survive this time around. The FX, while still solid, are hardly as memorable as what was offered in the first outing. All of this would be fine and good if the screenplay by Alvaro Rodriguez (from a story by Robert Rodriguez) had managed to serve up a character or two worth caring about. Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi) is the typical Rodriguez archetype that has been reused endlessly throughout Rodriguez’s career. Yes, audiences responded really well to El Mariachi and Desperado. That doesn’t mean every movie needs a variation on the character. Madrid is the least likable of all these guys, however, mainly because he’s a bastard who thinks nothing of murdering two handicapped stage coach drivers to get his hands on some bounty. Sure, this is a movie about bad buys – just like the first – but Tarantino’s script for part 1 brought a lot of humility and conscience to Seth Gecko. In the case of Johnny Madrid, he couldn’t get chomped by the vamps quick enough.
Thankfully, Michael Parks is in here playing real-life author Ambrose Bierce. It’s the film’s only inspired idea, melding the actual disappearance of a historical figure into a story about vampires. Sadly, they script doesn’t do enough with this, and while Parks is an absolute blast to watch when he’s on screen, he has less and less to do as the movie chugs along. His interaction with the vampires in the second half also raises several questions that are never fully answered. This is probably in an effort to add more ambiguity to the fate of Bierce, although it largely smacks of poor storytelling.
When the action finally gets to the future Titty Twister, the pacing is quick enough and the action is good enough to provide some marginal entertainment. That The Hangman’s Daughter has some nice production value (especially considering this is a DTV feature) is a big plus – especially in this day and age of unwatchable, zero budgeted nonsense – but the script never justifies the film’s existence. It leaves audiences recalling how much better everything worked the first time around while subsequently alleviating any real reason to watch this. Why not just watch the original again? Unless hardcore fans really need to gleam the origin of Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek’s character in the first film), there’s almost nothing about From Dusk Till Dawn 3 worth recommending. It’s not an awful film, just a woefully pointless one.
The biggest surprise here is with Echo Bridge’s 1.78:1-framed 1080p high definition transfer. It’s pretty damn good! Colors pop nicely, and there’s great textures to be found on clothing and backgrounds. The early section of the film – primarily all daytime stuff – is bright and vibrant while the darker, shadowy second half holds up rather nicely. Blacks are strong and maintain detail throughout. Only the occasional CGI-based FX shots look murky, and there’s an odd instance of digital noise near the end (look at Michael Parks’ scarf) – though it’s very easy to miss. Overall, this transfer is the best I’ve seen from Echo Bridge. Nicely handled all-around.
And the audio is no slouch, either. The 5.1 DTS track is aggressive when it needs to be, effectively conveying all the gunfire and the vampiric chaos that engulfs the speakers. Dialogue remains clear throughout, never being undermined by the sound FX work. While it would be nice to see Echo Bridge embrace the lossless format for all future Blu-rays, this track certainly gets the job done.
We’re light on extra features, with a three minute clip of Rodriguez introducing the film at the LA premiere. Nothing special. Oddly enough, there’s also a scene after the end credits involving Bierce talking to a bar patron (director P.J. Pesce) in a modern-day setting. This looks to have been a deleted scene on Dimension’s DVD, but now the only place to see it is after the credits have ended. Oddly enough, this scene is on its own track, so once the film’s time code clocks to 93 minutes on your player, it then switches over to a 30 second track which plays this clip. The switch is seamless; it’s just odd that it’s separate from the film.
PQ and AQ on this disc are very good. If only the film were better this would be Echo Bridge’s first rock solid Blu-ray release. As it stands, any big-time fans of this franchise will probably be happy with the upgrade in technical quality offered on this disc. The special features aren’t too special, but it’s cool to see Echo Bridge is listening to their critics and taking measure to improve. Maybe they’ll take another pass at the original From Dusk Till Dawn and port all the extras over while they’re at it.
2 out of 5
1 out of 5
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