When is a TV show better than a movie?
I loved the Movie, From Dusk Till Dawn, real stick to your teeth vampires, complex plot, great actors, and the camera zoom out at the end—to die for. So why would Robert Rodriguez go back to re-explore the same story in a TV show, Netflix original series From Dusk Till Dawn? Ahhh, as a writer I grok this completely! (really?! grok—look it up!)
As mentioned in an earlier column, I love monsters, especially vampires—so I take this stuff personally. Saw Dracula the movie at 7 or 8 years of age. I watched every vampire movie I could, even the mediocre ones, i.e. Daughter of Dracula. The Castle films starring Christopher Lee were special favorites. In 1969 I finally went to the source and read Dracula by Bram Stoker, I’ve got to tell you that book scared the crap out of me! I kept hearing strange noises outside my window. It still stands up.
Over the years, many other vampire books and movies crossed my path, some were pale examples, while others expanded the genre, Interview With a Vampire being a shining example of the latter. Movies such as Fright Night and Lost Boys kept my juices flowing with the joy of the undead. No wimpy sparkle in the sunlight, whining about how tough immortality is, cross-dressing vampire wanna-be’s for me.
So, From Dusk Till Dawn added new elements to the fold for all the reasons mentioned above, why revisit what already was exceptional? Because a 2-2+1/2 hour film can only go so far, get so deep. Rodriguez knew there was more to the story, but was limited to a couple of hours, so he had to keep it fairly linear and palatable for the wide movie-going public. Yet, that last scene, as the camera pans out, and we see the Aztec temple left more questions than it answered! How did this begin? What were the connections to the ritual bloodletting of their society? How long had this been going on? Etc, etc.
The TV series answers these questions and more, spicing in a plethora of mystical magical elements. Why the Gecko brothers went to the ‘Titty-Twister” bar becomes more than a money exchange with Carlos. Richard Gecko in particular gains profoundly from this expansion of the original, his connection to Santanico Pandemonium, as played erotically by Eiza Gonzalez, in her first English speaking role, takes the story to a whole other level.. And the vampires! Well they aren’t vampires, at least not as we have always known them, they are…..well watch and find out for yourself but they don’t sparkle in the daylight, thank Tlaloc!
The use of flashbacks, and dream-states, constantly makes you wonder what is real and what is happening, just when you think you figured it out….Not! The addition of the side story of the Rangers, and the more complex issues involving the Fuller family traveling in their Rv, add even more depth and complexity to the story. And the Conquistadors….too cool!
A few words about the cast: The Gecko brothers, played by D.J. Cotrona ( from the 2nd G.I. Joe movie) and Zane Holtz (gotta love a guy who’s name starts and ends with a Z) are brilliant!
I forgot about the originals from the movie very quickly, these two OWN these roles, especially Holtz. His Richard Gecko simmers with crazy genius! I mean really? Robert Patrick, Jake Busey (crazy times 10),and Don Johnson, who dies in the first episode, and yet, appears each week, Holy shit these are top drawer actors. The rest of the cast is forced to play their A-game!
I tried not to pull a Potsy Webber on you, so I won’t tell you who lives, dies or is transformed, watch if you want to know. One last thing, as a student of Folklore and Mythology, the extra dimension that Rodriguez adds by exploring Aztec/Mayan Myth is like salt in soup—it makes taste even better. Rodriguez wrote and directed the first couple and keeps a firm hand on the steering wheel through out the season. I can’t possibly imagine where 2nd season goes—but brother, I am along for the ride!