Ah, straight-to-VHS. A crazy era of cash-grab trash. Yet, it was a playground of sorts where middling filmmakers could have fun pumping out garbage. They filled Blockbuster shelves with fallback options when all 20 copies of Jumanji were rented. They packed retail spin racks, so confused grandparents could look at the jumble of movies and ask…
“What was that movie Johnny liked about the robot from the future? Lady Terminator?”
It is this world we return to as we look at From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999). Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez ruled Hollywood with the one-two punch of Pulp Fiction and Desperado. They took advantage and bestowed the gloriously gonzo vampire movie From Dusk Till Dawn upon us. Not even Juliette Lewis could ruin it with another one of her on-the-spectrum performances.
Of course, there had to be a sequel. Certainly, it had to be straight-to-VHS. For sure, it had to star a once-hot actor who couldn’t maintain momentum. And, of course, it’s not that great. Yet, some fun can be had by revisiting it.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2 Overview
If you look at From Dusk Till Dawn 2 cross-eyed, you can sort of see a plot. It mirrors the first movie, which starts out like a Jim Thompson novel about banditos on the run, who take a family hostage. Then the movie flips on a dime when they end up in a bar owned and operated by vampires, who use it as their own personal honey pot.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2 starts out with a group of banditos who plan to rob a bank. Along the way, one of them gets bitten by a vampire. After that, the movie mostly stops trying. Yet, you can see the director having a good time regardless.
Scott Speigel directed From Dusk Till Dawn 2. Hardcore Sam Raimi fans might recognize the name. Spiegel worked with Raimi on a number of films, including Evil Dead 2, Spider-Man 2 the latest Doctor Strange movie and more. Speigel even co-wrote Evil Dead 2.
This kind of pedigree gives one hope that From Dusk Till Dawn 2 would mirror crazy Raimi. Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Mostly, Speigel puts his stamp on the movie by seeing how many weird places he can stuff a camera. My favorites include on a rotating fan, inside a vampire’s mouth, and inside the coiled cord of a phone.
Beyond that, Speigel doesn’t bring much to the party. Some cornball amusement is present but not enough to produce a hidden gem. For example, a pointless story is told about an angry man storming the set of an adult film with a shotgun. It is told in real-time flashback as the camera pans off the face of the narrator to reveal the story playing out in the background.
He even shot the guy who brought the donuts…
From Dusk Till Dawn 2 Cast
Robert Patrick takes the lead in From Dusk Till Dawn 2. Patrick had a handful of good parts post-Terminator 2 but not many. He did a dramatic turn in Copland and portrayed a wacky coach in The Faculty, but mostly he did stuff like Double Dragon and cheap action movies like Ambushed and Renegade Force. Patrick is fine in From Dusk Till Dawn 2. He doesn’t have to do much other than look good in a pair of mirrored sunglasses. Terminator 2 already proved he could do that. Otherwise, the only acting heights Patrick needs to reach are semi-comical exclamations and looking scared.
Patrick’s crew is made up of a gaggle of character actors. They include Duane Whitaker (Pulp Fiction), Muse Watson (I Know What You Did Last Summer), Woody Harrelson’s brother, Brett Harrelson, and Raymond Cruz (Breaking Bad). Bo Hopkins and Danny Trejo also pop in.
All of these guys serve their functions as small-time bank robbers, world-weary policemen, and vampire bartenders. Their acting classes at Julliard paid off for sure. Never once did I question the truth of their performances. Case in point: when they lapped blood from mannequins, I genuinely believed they were vampires. If that isn’t mastery of the craft, I don’t know what qualifies.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2 Story
If a movie can’t have a budget or fine craftmanship, it can at least have a good script. At the end of the day, the script for a movie like From Dusk Till Dawn 2 is basically formula, paper, and ink. The translation between screen and script is not always one-to-one, though.
An interview with Adrian Lyne comes to mind, regarding his direction of Jacob’s Ladder. The screenwriter wrote about a wall falling away and revealing “the void.” Lyne deemed it necessary to cut that scene. The screenwriter objected. Lyne’s response:
“Then tell me how many carpenters I need to build the void…”
Who knows what was lost in translation between the screenplay and actual movie on From Dusk Till Dawn 2. The original pitch was to return to the bar featured in the original and discover that Tarantino’s character was now King of the Vampires.
We get none of that. From Dusk Till Dawn 2 starts with a Bruce Campbell and Tiffany Amber-Theissen cameo. The two of them play a pair of bloodsucking lawyers who get their blood sucked. The scene is completely unrelated to the rest of the film. It’s clearly an attempt to put Campbell’s name on the movie and lure in Evil Dead fans. As for Tiffany Amber-Theissen, I guess they hoped to rope in the Saved by the Bell fans, too. Makes sense. I think Kelly was a vampire, right? Or at least a vamp…
From Dusk Till Dawn 2 Stuff
Following the disconnected opening, From Dusk Till Dawn 2 introduces us to the characters. The requisite pithy Tarantino banter follows…poorly. Speigel tried to go for lowest common denominator by having the group banter about pornography. It is the kind of scene you can pretty much guarantee will come on as soon as your grandparents walk into the room to bequeath your birthday copy of Lady Terminator upon you.
Eventually, all of these characters end up in a bank, and the movie bogs down. It takes a cue from The Thing, in that one-by-one, the robbers become vampires. Unlike The Thing, no suspense is involved. Each character is attacked onscreen, so you know who is and isn’t a vampire at all times.
For whatever reason, The Last Voyage of the Demeter showed Dracula wasn’t bothered by a cross. From Dusk Till Dawn 2 goes in the opposite direction. Anything that is cross-like is bad for the vampires. I’m all for makeshift crosses, but a line needs to be drawn. Otherwise, how could a vampire survive anywhere with, like, architecture. “Crosses” are ubiquitous, in that case.
Only during the climax does From Dusk Till Dawn 2 finally become the movie it should be from front to back. The vampires exit the bank and shoot it up with the police during a solar eclipse. This goes on longer than it should, and we are even treated to terrible CGI in the process. That’s quality straight-to-VHS right there. The only thing missing is Jack Scalia.
Why do vampires want to rob a bank anyway? Unless it was a…wait for it…blood bank! Har-dee-har-har-har! But back to the question at hand…
Once a vampire is a vampire, they basically have all the time in the world to accumulate cash. Throw in super strength, and it should be a simple matter for them to make jack. Yet, for whatever reason, these vampires want to flirt with sunrise to empty a vault.
This is why movies like From Dusk Till Dawn 2 frustrate. Clever camera placement aside, one gets the feeling that no one particularly cares. It’s all just a party thrown by a spreadsheet equation. IP + VHS x Rental Units + Confused Grandparent Sales = Acceptable Profit.
It shouldn’t be that hard to lay out a proper vampire-bank-robbery movie. How about this…maybe a vampire owns the bank. The vampire then uses the vault as his daytime hideout. It’s perfect. It’s secure. The only thing the vampire has to worry about is bank robbers. Uh-oh!
Or maybe a vampire hunter stores vampire ashes in a safety deposit box. The robbers break in, find the vampire dust, and bad things ensue. Maybe inhaling vampire dust turns one into a vampire. Why not? This is straight-to-VHS world; we can do what we want! Going this route, we even get a metaphor for cocaine addiction and can get intellectual cred. Win-win.
Alas, From Dusk Till Dawn 2 doesn’t really do anything imaginative. The characters get to the bank, muck around a bit and then Robert Patrick gets spooked by vampires popping out of smoke. Cue climax.
Watching movies like From Dusk Till Dawn 2 is a form of inoculation. It keeps one grounded on their definitions of good and bad. To wit, is From Dusk Till Dawn 2 worse than something like Meg 2? Not really. Meg 2 just has a lot better production: $130 million vs. $5 million. Otherwise, the films are quite similar. Characters introduced, aimless mucking around, wacky climax, a moment of reflection, the end.
Then it becomes a matter of scale. Considering its budget and talent, does From Dusk Till Dawn 2 operate efficiently within its parameters? No, they left some meat on the bone. Is it a total failure? No, it has vampires shooting guns and doggy-bowl cam. Let’s call it two stars and seize the day from the dawn from which it sprang and the dusk from which it tilled…
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