DVD REVIEW: FROM DUSK TILL DAWN: THE SERIES / CERT: 18 / DIRECTORS: VARIOUS / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: D.J. COTRONA, ZANE HOLTZ, ROBERT PATRICK, EIZA GONZÁLEZ, DON JOHNSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
You all know the story: Notorious modern-day smart-suited outlaws Richie and Seth Gecko are on the run and heading down to the Mexican Border, leaving a trail of death and destruction behind them. Yet, no matter how many times Seth (the good-looking smart one) tries to keep everything cool, his mentally addled brother, Richie (the geeky mass-murdering psychopath one) just can’t help but screw everything up. A few dead hostages later and the pair find themselves allied with a faith-questioning preacher called Jacob and his two kids who are heading south for their own life-affirming reasons. It’s an uneasy partnership which doesn’t get any easier once they pass the border and enter the Titty Twister bar, only to find the drinks are on them, and the staff are really, really thirsty.
And there, in a nutshell, is the biggest problem with this TV spin on Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino’s legendary action/horror: You know the story. Of course, with seven and a half hours of screen time to fill, the writing staff (which include Tarantino, Rodriguez, his brother and his cousin) has infused the story with a weightier back-story than the previous incarnations managed (making the prequel Hangman’s Daughter null and void). They’ve also embellished some of the characters motivations and added several new important players into the mix. But it doesn’t detract from the fact that ultimately this feels like an incredibly lengthy TV movie adaptation of a classic genre-breaking horror movie, with low-rent lookalikes spouting often-verbatim lines.
That said, this isn’t without merit. Some of the writing is smart and fun, and the horror and direction occasionally bounces out of the usual TV confines (usually when Rodriguez is directing). In all, Rodriguez directs four out of the 10-episode run and while early indications suggested that Tarantino and even Selma Hayek would get behind the camera on episodes, sadly this didn’t transpire. The casting is solid enough as Zane Holtz fills Quentin’s shoes, while D.J. Cotrona does his best George Clooney impression (head wobble and all). Returning to the franchise – albeit in a different role – is Robert Patrick as Jacob Fuller (consequently making the sequel Texas Blood Money null and void… probably just as well), while Jake Busey finally rears his head again as the groin-shooting Sex Machine. Eiza González turns in a suitably sexy performance as Santanico Pandemonium (the third person to do so), while Madison Davenport sadly lacks Juliette Lewis’s bite. Jesse Garcia turns out to be the surprise heart and soul of the series, playing the Texas Ranger on a mission for retribution, but it’s his mentor Sheriff McGraw that steals the show thanks to Don Johnson who stands tall as the only actor who manages to even remotely fill the shoes of their cinematic predecessor.
Without doubt, this series works best when it colours outside of the lines, although by the time it finally pulls away from its pale imitation of the original it’s almost too little too late. They must have done something right though as the show got renewed for a second season… maybe then we can really see whether the concept has what it takes to make the transition to TV.
Extras: There’s plenty on the DVD release, but we didn’t get to see any of them in time for press.