Double That Feature #4: ‘From Dusk Till Dawn’
Vampires: they’re a fun little monster, right? Godsmack did a rad song about them, that’s pretty neat. What else is there… oh! There’s also something close to a zillion movies featuring the bloody blood-sucking bastards in some form or fashion. Silly me, forgot all about that.
Cinema’s been an old haunt for vampires since the very beginning, from 1913’s The Vampire (which is more of a femme fatale feature than a vampire one, but the two concepts are so closely intertwined that it counts), to 1922’s silent-era classic Nosferatu, to 1931’s landmark Dracula, to 1943’s… okay, this is going to take forever, let’s fast forward a bit… to 2019’s colorful-gory-fever-dream Bliss. The idea of the “vampire flick” has been around nearly as long as the Western, so saying they’re a cinematic staple would be an understatement.
So what am I getting at with this movie history lecture? Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn. THAT’S what I’m getting at. It’s part crime thriller and, most importantly, part vampire romp. Can’t go wrong with putting it in its context.
Who doesn’t like From Dusk Till Dawn? George Clooney fighting undead blood-sucking freaks in an ass-end-of-nowhere Mexican strip club? Hell yeah, that sounds awesome! Selma Hayek, Harvey Keitel, Juliette Lewis, Tom Savini, Fred Williamson, and Danny Trejo also join in on the fun, making up one of the best casts I’ve ever seen in a horror movie. Oh, Quentin Tarantino is there, too, but your mileage may vary on that.
For those of you that haven’t seen From Dusk Till Dawn, let me give you a quick rundown:
The story begins with Seth (Clooney) and Richie Gecko (Tarantino) taking a family hostage, right after robbing a bank (and killing a good number of people). You see, they need to cross the border to Mexico, and what better way to do that than to use an innocent family’s RV? No one would ever expect it!
Once they’re down there, they find their way to the Titty Twister, a strip club/bar that the Gecko’s contact told them to wait at. Unfortunately for the crew, the place is less about stripping off clothes, and more about bleeding out necks. With the odds against them and the sun still hours away, it’s a fight for survival as they try to last From Dusk Till Dawn! Was that too dramatic? It’s tone appropriate, I couldn’t help myself.
So, as you can probably tell, I’m a pretty big fan of this feature (and also the third one). It’s an entertaining 90s-flavored exploitation flick with bullets, blood, grotesque monsters, a banging soundtrack, and nudity, if that’s gonna be your make-or-breaker.
However, as much fun it is to talk about, I have a job to do here. I need to find several OTHER movies to recommend pairing with this fiendish feast of a film! Luckily, I have a few in mind, just for y’all. Let’s sink our fangs into it, shall we?
1. Tales From The Crypt: Demon Knight (Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson; Starring Billy Zane, William Sadler, John Kassir (voice); 1995)
“A man on the run is hunted by a demon known as the Collector.” – via IMDB.
There’s a big reason why this is placed on here, one that might convince you of my reasoning. You see, back when they were brainstorming what stories to use for the Tales From The Crypt movies, one idea came to the table that they ultimately discarded. What was that idea? Well, wouldn’t you know it, it was a crime thriller/exploitative horror flick called From Dusk Till Dawn!
For some reason, they thought Bordello of Blood was the better option. To each their own, I guess.
Back to the point: Demon Knight is freaking fantastic. I feel like I can just leave it at that and carry on, but I’ll go ahead and elucidate a bit, just for you.
Talking about this flick, there’s one detail that takes precedence over everything else, and that detail is Billy Zane. If there is one takeaway from the film, it’s Billy Zane. If there is one crowning jewel to steal from this treasure chest of gory gains, it’s Billy Zane. Every scene he’s in is pure gold. You can tell he’s enjoying every minute, and chews the scenery like it’s his last meal.
On top of that, this movie gives a whole helping of practical FX action, complete with gruesome ghouls and glorious gore. Honestly, I’m a little hesitant to dive too deep because I truly believe it deserves a watch, especially if you’re into creature features.
As to why I think it pairs well with From Dusk Till Dawn, there are two reasons. One, the Tales From the Crypt connection. Two, the genre bait-and-switch. In this flick’s case, when you start watching the film, you think it’s going to be a road movie, but instead, you get a monster flick akin to Pumpkinhead meets Night of the Living Dead. Which, I mean, hell yeah!
2. Blood Red Sky (Directed by Peter Thorwarth; Starring Peri Baumeister, Carl Anton Koch, Alexander Schee; 2021)
“A woman with a mysterious illness is forced into action when a group of terrorists attempts to hijack a transatlantic overnight flight.” – via IMDB.
You might notice a trend going on with this list. That being “genre mash-ups”, or “films-starting-off-as-one-thing-but-ending-as-another”. As I said before, that’s exactly what From Dusk Till Dawn is. Crime movie that turns into vampire romp yadda yadda yadda, I’m just repeating myself here. Point is, Blood Red Sky also follows that formula.
It begins as one of those “terrorist-attack plane thrillers”, before taking a sharp turn into the blood-soaked horror/dark-tragic superhero genre. Think Air Force One, but instead of Harrison Ford being Special Agent President, you get a bloodthirsty monster saving the day by dismembering terrorist hijackers. Sounds super rad, right? Luckily, the movie lives up to that promising premise!
Now, I can see the first half’s slow pace turning some viewers off, but I think it helps build the tension up before we get to the bloody bits. It feels like a superhero origin story, where Nadja the Nosferatu (played gore-riously by Peri Baumeister) has a heroic call to action, then tears up bad guys and horrifically drains them dry. And trust me, the brutality is there, especially in the last act.
Between the vampires and genre-shifting, you can see why I think this has double feature potential with the Robert Rodriguez horror classic. The only question now is where you can watch it!
You can do so digitally on Netflix, and only there, because it currently does not have a physical release.
3. Dead Heat (Directed by Mark Goldblatt; Starring Treat Williams, Joe Piscopo, Lindsay Frost; 1988)
“A cop and his undead partner must chase down the diabolical villain who killed him.” – IMDB.
For those who’re still here, I have a bit more to talk about. First of all, Treat Williams isn’t the only talent in this cinematic masterpiece. Oh no! There’s also Joe Piscopo (remember Johnny Dangerously?), Darren McGavin (aka KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER), and Vincent Price (aka ONE OF THE BEST HORROR ACTORS EVER)! So much cult-movie star power in this picture, I love it.
That’s not even the main selling point I have.
Look, it starts off by presenting itself as your standard buddy-cop action flick, with a diamond robbery involving the entire LAPD and a couple of crooks. Bog standard… for the first five minutes.
Then do you know what they do?
They throw in zombies! Zombies with machine guns! After that, they just keep upping the ante. Ever seen an entire Chinese deli get zombified? I don’t mean people in a deli becoming zombies. Oh no, no no no, that’s FAR too mundane. I’m talking the deli meat itself becoming zombies! Ducks, pigs, even a butchered cow! All attacking our heroes in one of the best scenes to ever be put on film!
This flick is nothing but gore, bullets, and action. Any exposition it has passes by quickly and is never taken too seriously. It knows what the audience wants, and it can’t wait to give it to them.
The mash-up of horror and action makes this more than a prime candidate to pair with From Dusk Till Dawn. But if you need more, they both have copious amounts of gunfire and undead monsters. Perfect partners!
4. Dog Soldiers (Directed by Neil Marshall; Starring Sean Pertwee, Kevin McKidd, Emma Cleasby; 2002)
“A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scotland wilderness.” – IMDB.
What better way to follow up a horror-action vampire viewing than with a horror-action werewolf watch?
I’m confident there’s a decent portion of y’all who are very familiar with this film. It gets brought up in many discussions as one of the best werewolf movies, and I’m not gonna contest that. No hot takes here. This IS one of the BEST werewolf movies of all time. I said it, you know it has to be true!
A bunch of soldiers armed with submachine guns takes on a pack of werewolves that are feeling a bit peckish for human flesh. Which, I mean, can you blame them? It’s a simple premise that’s done spectacularly, solidifying director Neil Marshall as a heavy hitter in the horror genre.
The action scenes are fun, with everything from guns to grenades to swords being used to battle the bipedal canine threat. Its no secret Marshall took some cues from James Cameron’s Aliens, using that inspiration to great effect.
Also, these are some of the best-looking werewolves ever put on screen! The best? I personally think An American Werewolf in London leads the pack, but they definitely rival The Howling’s carnivorous lupines. It’s all practical, too, which makes it that much more satisfying to watch.
Why does it go with From Dusk Till Dawn Again, genre mashup, this time being a military thriller with a werewolf horror twist. Also, vampires and werewolves go together like blood and guts—I, I mean, chocolate and peanut butter.
I can’t find anywhere to watch it digitally, but you can get it physically here.
From the demons to the undead to… well, the undead again… to werewolves, we finally made it to the end!
If you ever find yourself bored some night, give one of these double features a try! And, hey, feel free to suggest some of your own films to pair with From Dusk Till Dawn! My friend Russell said that Psycho would be a good choice, and you know what… he’s right! That’s also a movie with a meta-transformative twist. There’s plenty of options out there! Let me know which ones to try!
Until next time…