Since the success of American Horror Story, television horror has been going from strength to strength. With even Norman Bates getting in on the act in Bates Motel, it’s a good time to be a horror fan. Likewise, the rise of Netflix and LoveFilm has revolutionised TV viewing – particularly the likes of Orange Is the New Black, Breaking Bad and Arrested Development’s much celebrated resurrection. The two meet in From Dusk Till Dawn, a TV reboot of the phenomenally fun 1996 vampire movie.
D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz are Seth and Richie Gecko – vicious, hardened and unpredictable criminals, neither of whom are played by George Clooney or Quentin Tarantino. This pilot (also directed by Robert Rodriguez) expands the mythology of the film as the Gecko brothers rob a liquor store, take some hostages and wind up on the run from the law. So far, it’s like the start of the film, except drawn out for almost forty-five minutes.
That sounds awful, but it actually works rather well. Rodriguez’s fingerprints are all over this, from the washed out visuals to the script (several lines of Tarantino’s screenplay remain) and the macho men who populate the series. The constraints of TV force Rodriguez to tone down some of his more characteristic flair, but that’s not always to the episode’s detriment – indeed, a lot of his recent output has been borderline unwatchable and almost self-parody in its desperation for Grindhouse authenticity. It’s too early to tell how the supernatural elements will come into play (aside from a brief prologue, there are no vampires) but this serves as a great (re)introduction to the Gecko brothers and the series’s new character, lawman Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia).
From the outset, we can safely say that Cotrona is no George Clooney (he sounds completely awkward attempting to growl the infamous “everybody be cool” line), his softly spoken honourable criminal act just coming across as a bad impression for now. Hopefully the following episodes will give him room to make the role his own, stepping out of Gorgeous George’s (hunky) shadow. Holtz, however, impresses as Richie. He doesn’t attempt a Tarantino impression, because nobody wants to see that again. Instead, his Richie is quietly menacing and believably disturbed, where Tarantino just came across as... well, Quentin Tarantino.
On the basis of this pilot, From Dusk Till Dawn is a surprising success. Stylish, slick and action-packed, it doesn’t deviate too much from the source material (a clever move, perhaps, to keep fans on board) but leaves plenty of room for innovation in future. There are nine episodes of this first series to go (airing every week, just after its US premiere). Everybody be cool, From Dusk Till Dawn is cool.