Monday, December 18, 2006

From Dusk till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money – review

DVD

Directed by: Scott Spiegel

Release Date: 1999

Contains spoilers

As a straight to video release this film was always going to have its work cut out when competing with From Dusk Till Dawn. Like the first film it tried to combine vampire horror with crime drama – unfortunately it had neither the cast, script or effects of the first film to carry it. That is not to say that it doesn’t have its moments but, as a sequel, it was always doomed to comparison.

Bruce Campbell cameos as BarryThe film’s beginning is interesting, a pair of attorneys, one of whom is played by the legendary Bruce Campbell (playing Barry), are defending a serial killer. They get in a lift when the power goes. Barry opens the lift hatch and the mangled body of a maintenance man falls through. Barry takes the dead man’s flashlight and climbs up the hatch only to be attacked by a flock of bats. He falls back through and the bats attack his female companion and also bite through the cables. The lift plummets and bats stream out of the smashed doors and… The cable TV goes.

A note about the bats, which are used often through the film. They are not exactly the best bat effects in the world, especially when seen close up. However, we mainly see rapid flapping and they don’t look to bad when that occurs.

The film was being watched by Buck (Robert Patrick). He fiddles with the TV, his girlfriend makes some comment about that is what happens when you steal cable, and gets the news which mentions an eclipse which is due and then that a bank robber, Luther (Duane Whitaker), has escaped. Sheriff Otis Lawson (Bo Hopkins) is pursuing him. Otis turns up on Buck’s doorstop, without a warrant, asking where Luther is but Buck is tight lipped. As Otis leaves he receives a phone call from Luther. He has a job lined up, robbing 5 million in drugs money from a Mexican bank, and tells Buck to get a crew together and meet him over the border.

The crew are made up of safe cracker and rodeo clown CW (Muse Watson), pit dog trainer Jesus (Raymond Cruz) and dim-witted security guard Ray Bob (Brett Harrelson). The next day they head to Mexico and end up in a motel watching porn and waiting for Luther. As they watch the porn we see the problem with the scripting. Their discussion should be entertaining, and the scriptwriters have tried to make a Tarantino style dialogue but the dialogue just isn’t that well written when compared to the material that Tarantino writes.

Luther is driving along when a bat smashes into his fender. He gets out the car and realises that it has gone through into the engine. He lifts the lid and the bat rears out of the machinery – he shoots it but the car is going nowhere. He sets off walking and reaches the Titty Twister. The internal décor is different and we wonder if this is problematic, given that this is a sequel it could have been refurbished following Seth Gecko’s escape. Yet behind the bar is Danny Trejo, Razor Charlie from the first film – or is he? Razor Charlie was killed in the first film and the character is credited as Razor Eddie, so I guess that this is Charlie’s identical twin brother who has the same tattoos. Incidentally we know this is a sequel when we briefly, later, meet Deputy McGraw (James Park) the son of Texas Ranger Earl McGraw. Comment is made that the Gecko’s killed his father and James Park is the son of Michael Parks who played Earl.

Luther is speaking to Eddie and tells him about the bat, Eddie offers him a lift andDanny Trejo as Razor Eddie Luther rings the crew to explain he will be late. Eddie gives him his lift and asks what sort of bat he hit, Luther doesn’t know but says he shot it and suddenly Eddie speeds up and Luther realises they are going the wrong way. They reach Luther’s jeep but the bat is gone and Eddie starts shouting for Victor (Joe Virzi). Victor staggers out of the dark and pulls Luther’s bullet from his own chest. Vamp out…

The scene has a little problem for me. Luther manages to get away and walks down the road, why didn’t he take Eddie’s jeep? Anyway, after a bat attack, he gets in it eventually only to be attacked by Victor. There is an interesting shot of fangs extending from inside the mouth and a bite from the same angle. Interesting until the same shot is used several times in the movie and it becomes a boring gimmick, unfortunately.

Dead in the bathJesus is bored and has gone to have sex with a woman he had seen when arriving at the motel. This was one of the film’s criticisms when it was released. Unlike the first film there are no strong female characters such as provided by Juliette Lewis in the first movie, we have this woman, Bucks girlfriend (who isn’t in the film long), the motel clerk (Lara Bye) – again not in the film long – and a sole female cop who dies rapidly. Anyway, post-coital Jesus is asleep and she goes for a shower and is attacked by a bat – her screams failing to illicit a response from the slumbering Jesus. She falls into the water, which quickly fills the bath.

Jesus wakes and is getting dressed when he hears a noise from the bathroom. She's behind youThe floor by the closed bathroom door is stained by bloody water that has seeped underneath. Luther emerges from the room. They end up fighting but Jesus holds him off with a motel bible and gets into the bathroom. He does not notice the girl emerge from the bath until she attacks. He smashes her head into the mirror and is able to cut her head off with a shard of broken glass. He jumps through the bathroom window straight into Luther who bites him but is seen doing so by the motel clerk, she recognises him from his picture from the TV news. She phones the cops and is killed by a fan being pushed in her face for her trouble.

Duane Whitaker as LutherSuddenly both Jesus and Luther go to the rest of the crew, acting as if all is normal, and Luther announces that they are going to do the job that very night. The film then follows a very simplistic pattern. The crew are turned one by one until only Buck is left. The cops surround the bank and gunfights occur. Of course Buck and Otis team-up.

notice the green bloodThe vampires follow generally the same rules as the first film. We discover that they have no reflections, which was something not really looked at in the first movie. They even maintain the green blood from the first film. There are some problems, however. When the cops reach the motel we see the decapitated head of the female vampire in the bath. We have already established that they burn up – was it the bath water that prevented this and, if so, surely the head would have melted or something?

There is also reliance on things we saw in the first film, like crosses using shotguns as the centre piece. It was cool in the first film but, whilst it should have been referential, in this it felt derivative.

Brett Harrelson as Ray BobI said at the head of this that the film didn’t really have the cast compared to the first film, but don’t get me wrong they aren’t totally awful just not in the same league as the cast from film number one. That said Robert Patrick is entertaining and carries his role well. The characters, unfortunately, all seem a little one dimensional, and the dialogue does not allow us to find the same charm as we found in the Gecko brothers. The effects don’t work as well as those in the first film but there is an ingenious slayage upon horns on the hood of a car.

There is a comment at the end from Buck that he and Otis are fearless vampire killers, this has to be referential to Polanski’s film of the same name.

Probably the worst bit of the film, to me, concerned the eclipse. After slaughtering a whole bunch of cops, who have raided the bank, the sun comes up sending the vampires into frenzied disarray. Buck, who is now in custody, tells Otis that they have the sun and they should use it. Seconds later the eclipse comes. The whole thing was too quick, the filmmakers should have found a way to stretch out the time between the sunrise and the eclipse in order that they might lead the characters into (more) peril.

The film is low level schlock but it is mildly entertaining none the less. It is a beer and mates movie that could never match the original. Not great but 3.5 out of 10 seems fair.

The imdb page is here.

2 comments:

Anthony Hogg said...

Here's a bit of background on the development of the movie from Mark Stewart's From Dusk Till Dawn Page.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Anthony