So we all know how a Tarantino film goes, right? It’s something like this. A couple of tough guys commit some crimes, and they’re bad dudes – like, real bad motor-scooters – but you start to love them anyway, because they’re talking about all this stuff you know.
And it opens exactly like that. A long, drawn-out conversation between a guy behind a till and a cop, full of mundane stuff and stylised swearing, while the Gecko brothers there – the guys farming this film’s melons – provide the underlying tension. They’re in the back, and they’ve got guns, and hostages, okay?
So even when the tension inevitably releases itself, and the cop gets a bullet through the back of his Stetson, it remains comfortable territory. This is what you put down your pounds, dollar, yen, or currency of choice down for, right?
Except that From Dusk Till Dawn isn’t just a Tarantino film. A trademark bare foot marks, with its delicately wiggling toes, exactly where that territory ends…
(Anyone who has never watched the film, and intends to, stop reading. Now. Buy, rent, download. We’ll still be here when you get back.)
Because this is a Rodriguez joint too. He’s the director, after all. And, nearly an hour and over halfway into the film, Dusk Till Dawn totally flips genres about with a single nudity-filled, mariachi-soundtracked scene.
The mariachi band start playing on guitars made of human meat, and the topless girls turn into grotesque vampires. Cue over-the-top violence, b-movie make-up monsters, and Tom Savini with a cannon for a penis.
The surprise makes the change-over deeply, darkly hilarious. It’s the perfect punchline to a long shaggy dog story of a joke, and from here on the film is armed with shotgun/baseball bat crucifixes, condoms full of holy water and cheesy one-liners.
Pleasant is a strange word to use, but it’s one of the most pleasant shocks in cinema, and one that, in a perfect world, I’d preserve for future generations. I’ve spent many an hour with my lovely girlfriend arguing the merits of my refusal to ever read those blurbs on the back of books that tell you roughly what the story’s going to be. Dusk Till Dawn is the perfect example for my side. The effect of both halves would be negated if you knew what was coming.
Because you don’t (hopefully, and if you’ve read this without watching, you’ve only got yourself to blame), the second half of Dusk Till Dawn turns – ta-da! – into something all its own, equal parts black comedy and survival horror. There’s a line to be drawn between it and Tarantino/Rodriquez’s other cinematic collaboration, Grindhouse, also a film of two parts: one distinctively QT, another more on RR’s turf. But this feels more organic, and does it in one single film. In a much shorter timeframe, using the same characters, you get two equally pleasing, entirely distinct films.
To steal one of the ideas those two threw around during the promotion of Grindhouse: From Dusk Till Dawn is incredible value for money. Two flicks in one, okay?