‘From Dusk Till Dawn’ – B-movie vampire orgy on HBO Max

Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney in the film from director Robert Rodriguez

Quentin Tarantino’s work-for-hire rewrite of a B-movie script became an instant cult item when Robert Rodriguez took the reins of From Dusk Till Dawn (1996, R), a gory south-of-the-border horror tale with a spaghetti western flourish. George Clooney headlines the picture as a charming and deadly bank robber who, along with his a psycho brother (Tarantino, overacting as usual), goes on the run with a camper full of hostages (single dad Harvey Keitel and his kids Juliette Lewis and Ernest Liu) to cross into Mexico.

It’s two films in one: a ruthless crime picture out of the Tarantino playbook that takes a detour to a Mexican brothel that turns out to be a nest of bloodsuckers, joined in the middle with an abrupt transition that would be surprising if we weren’t all expecting it. Tom Savini and Fred Williamson co-star as fellow civilians in the bloodsucker battle, Salma Hayak is a stripper who dances with a boa constrictor, and Cheech Marin, Danny Trejo, and Michael Parks co-star.

This is a vampire blood orgy with southwestern flavor, loaded with smart dialogue, outrageous antics, self consciously hip humor, and bloodbath finale. The mean spirited antics of Tarantino’s psychotic criminals are hardly as funny as he must think but Rodriguez directs with campy overkill and go-for-broke enthusiasm that makes Peckinpah look downright tame. It spawned a series of direct-to-disc sequels and a cable series, but nothing tops the drive-in spirit of the original.

Rated R

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Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
From Dusk Till Dawn [Blu-ray+Digital]
From Dusk Till Dawn [Blu-ray]
From Dusk Till Dawn [DVD + Digital]

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Sean Axmaker is a Seattle film critic and writer. He writes the weekly newspaper column Stream On Demand and the companion website, and his work appears at RogerEbert.com, Turner Classic Movies online, The Film Noir Foundation, and Parallax View.

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