The film opens with fugitive bank robbers and brothers Seth (George Clooney) and Richie Gecko (Quentin Tarantino) fleeing the F.B.I. and Texas police. During the first few minutes of the film, they hold up and then destroy a liquor store and kill the store clerk and a cop. Two witnesses they held hostage in the store escape during the shooting. They hold a bank clerk hostage in the trunk of their car, whom Richie later rapes and murders (offscreen) to Seth’s obvious dismay.
The Fuller family — Jacob (Harvey Keitel), the father, a pastor who is experiencing a crisis of faith, his Chinese American stepson Scott (Ernest Liu), and daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis) — are on a vacation in their RV. They stop at a motel and are promptly kidnapped by the Geckos, who force the Fullers to smuggle them past the Mexican border. Seth and Jacob make an uneasy truce: if the Geckos can make it past the border, Jacob and his family will come out of the ordeal unharmed. They succeed and arrive at the “Titty Twister”, a strip club in the middle of a desolate part of Mexico, where the Geckos will be met by their contact Carlos (Cheech Marin) at dawn. The Geckos demand that the Fullers have a drink with them before leaving, despite Kate’s obvious discomfort.
The group is initially rebuffed at the door by the doorman (Cheech Marin), and Seth, overreacting, beats him up before entering the club. Inside, they are again questioned and asked to leave by the bartender (Danny Trejo) until Jacob manages to convince him to let them stay by showing him his driver’s license, which has a trucker rating. Seth is not happy about having been talked out of the fight, and begins drinking heavily while encouraging the entire group (kids included) to do the same. Richie drinks as well, but takes special notice of the club’s star performer, Santanico Pandemonium (Salma Hayek) during an extended solo performance. However, near the end of her set, the doorman and bouncer that the pair beat up earlier arrive with back up, looking to settle the score with the Geckos. In a short confrontation, Richie is wounded, and as he bleeds, he is attacked by a transformed Santanico, now revealed as a vampire.
Chaos ensues as the employees and strippers are all revealed to be vampires. Most of the patrons are quickly killed, and Richie is bitten by Santanico and bleeds to death. Only Seth, Jacob, Kate, Scott, a biker named Sex Machine (Tom Savini) and Frost (Fred Williamson), a Vietnam War veteran, survive the attack. They quickly establish that despite their reservations about believing in vampires, they have to accept the reality at hand in order to live through the night. Seth also convinces the group that Jacob is their best weapon, but only if he rediscovers his faith and confidence enough to become a preacher again. The slain patrons — including Richie — then come back to life as vampires, forcing Seth to kill his own brother. Afterwards the group set about killing the vamped patrons.
During this second struggle, one of the vampires bites Sex Machine in the arm. Subsequently, Sex Machine changes into a vampire and bites Frost and Jacob before Frost throws Sex Machine through a window which allows an army of vampires to enter as bats from the outside. Seth and the Fullers desperately escape to a back storeroom and fashion anti-vampire weapons from items found therein, including a pneumatic drill, crossbow, shotgun and holy water (which requires Jacob to recover his faith to bless it). Jacob, knowing he will soon turn into a vampire as well, makes a reluctant Scott and Kate promise to kill him when he changes.
The four then make their final assault on the undead. During the battle, both Sex Machine and Frost attack but Kate kills Sex Machine and Jacob kills Frost. Jacob changes, but Scott hesitates to dispatch his father, allowing Jacob to bite Scott. Scott then hits Jacob with holy water and shoots him. Scott is then captured by several vampires who begin to devour him. Begging for death, Scott is shot by Kate. Only Seth and Kate are alive, surrounded by vampires. Just as they contemplate suicide, streams of sunlight shine through new holes in the walls, making the vampires back away. Dawn has come, and Carlos is trying to shoot his way in. On Seth’s call, Carlos’ bodyguards blast open the door, letting in full sunlight and killing every vampire inside, aided in part by the disco ball in the center of the room. Carlos admits that he had never entered the club, but that he had thought it looked like “a fun place.”
Kate asks Seth if she can go with him to El Ray, but he declines, saying, “I may be a bastard, but I’m not a fucking bastard.” She (in the RV) and Seth (with Carlos) go their separate ways after Seth gives Kate some cash. As they leave, the camera pans back to reveal that the “Titty Twister” was actually the top of a partially buried ancient Aztec temple, presumably the home of vampires for centuries, and that hundreds of trucks and bikes have been toppled down the side of the cliff.
I remember the first time I watched this film. I w as sitting in my dorm room during summer school working on some homework and flipping through channels when I came across the preview for this, so I sat and watched it…then got back to my homework.
George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino play a couple of thieving brothers trying to cross the border to escape the cops. We all know what Clooney can do. Love him or hate, he does have some acting talent. As a matter of fact, he may have a bit too much for this film, then I remember when this came out, and he was still working his way from the halls of ER. Tarantino, on the other hand, occasionally will do a small part in his films, but never a major starring role like this, even if he does die halfway through.
The magically delicious Salma Hayek has the most memorable moment in this entire picture. Of course, I’m speaking of her snake dance and subsequent teasing of Quentin Tarantino where she pours beer down her leg and into his mouth. I’m not one for foot fetishes or anything like that, but that was hot!
As with any vampire film, there has to be a group of victims/heroes that a re reluctant to aid. From Dusk Till Dawn is no exception. The help comes in the form of a pastor with issues and his family and a group of bikers ad truck drivers that was drinking at the bar.
Watching this, you’d expect to see some major vampire show up after all the killing starts, but that never happens. These are just vampires that seemed to be trapped in a bar in Mexico. Now, if Salma Hayek’s character is the leader, as it is believed, she sure died easily and early. I’m just saying, if she is indeed their leader, you’d think she would have been better protected and have lasted longer. Maybe that’s just me.
A few critics have criticized the final fight scenes as being mindless action that just gets gory and lacks dialogue. I disagree. First of all, who says there needs to be dialogue when you’re trying to stay alive in the face of a bar full of vampire with no visible way escape. As far as the gore goes, well, anyone that knows vampire lore, knows that driving a stake through their heart is the best way to kill them. Only way to show this is to make it gory. Sure, they could have done it without the blood, but this isn’t a PG-13 picture.
Don’t waste your time with the sequel and prequel to this. There is good reason they went straight to DVD, but this one is worth a watch. It has everything you could want, action, gore, vampires, criminals, dramatic tension, Salma Hayek in perhaps her sexiest role. What more could you want?
4 out of 5 stars