Review

6: John Carpenter's The Thing Review

canva-photo-editor (64).png

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

I love watching horror movies. I try to watch as many as I possibly can during October. Unfortunately, I have been so busy this year with my job and other things that I have yet to really watch any, besides Hereditary, which I loved. Horror is another film genre that has hurdles to get over in being rewatchable. Not only do you have subjective tastes to deal with, once you know when all the scares are coming, that might lessen the experience. That means, for me, you would need to make sure everything around the scares work, like writing, effects, atmosphere, lighting, and what have you. I decided to choose a horror movie that I love and could watch hundreds of times without getting bored with it, The Thing, the 1982 remake by John Carpenter.

canva-photo-editor (65).png

The story follows a group of scientists working at an isolated base in Antarctica. One day, they see a helicopter of scientists from another base chasing a sled dog and trying to kill it. After dealing with the incident, they take in the sled dog. Later that night, they find out something odd about the dog. Unfortunately for them, they realize that the dog turns out to be a shape-shifting alien that ends up causing chaos at the base. Things turn from bad to worse when they understand that the alien has made it impossible for anyone to leave the base, and has hidden himself among the remaining people there. It then becomes a tense game of survival as the scientists try to find a way to get out of there, and to stop the alien from leaving Antarctica.

canva-photo-editor (66).png

It’s always interesting to read about the history of this film. It might be a classic now, but it was not back in the day, as it underperformed at the box office, along with many other films when E.T. came out. You can’t understate that E.T. killed a lot of good movies in its release area. Anyway, after being popular on TV and rental stores, it’s now a certified classic. Well, why? I mean, opinions change over time, but when I first saw this film for the first time a decade or so ago, I found it to be incredible. It’s easily one of the scariest movies I have seen in my life. First off, being isolated in one of the coldest places on earth is already horrifying. No real consistent way to contact the real world from that location is unsettling, but throw in an alien that can shapeshift, and the paranoia among the characters all add up to the overall experience. A lot of the film’s scares and tone are definitely molded by the film’s composer Ennio Morricone. While he is very well known for his work in films like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, and Dario Argento’s Animal Trilogy, he also composed the music for The Hateful Eight, which can be argued to be a sort-of western version of The Thing. Anyway, Ennio’s music brings this minimalist unnerving atmosphere that gels well with the dark rooms, shadows, and the ever-present sense of someone among the crew not being who they say they are. It then becomes a ticking time bomb of slowly making sure that if anyone ends up being infected by the alien, they are taken care of immediately. What also works about this movie is that the scientists, while having their moments of rage-filled paranoia and stubborn pride, are smart. Sure, logic isn’t always the most important thing in a film when compared to the emotion and writing, but the fact that the characters don’t simply kill one another in mere seconds of finding out about the possibility of being infected is a nice change of pace. It’s always infuriating when the writing, tone, and atmosphere of a horror film is undone by characters doing something stupid that takes you out of the experience. The Thing is a slow burn-style horror film that easily makes the scares that happen in the film ten times more effective.

canva-photo-editor (67).png

The cast for this film is fantastic. Of course, you have John Carpenter mainstay Kurt Russell, but also Keith David, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, and Thomas Waites. Each actor is memorable in his own respective way. I think it also helps that everyone here looks normal. There is no chiseled cut 20 year-old-looking man. It makes it more believable when you have a bunch of people who look like they would actually work at this science outpost. However, one of the best characters in the movie is the alien itself. The special effects, done by Rob Bottin with the help of Stan Winston, the alien is nightmarish in its look, as it takes the incomplete form of a mass of skin, heads, arms, and blood. Anytime the alien is found out, it becomes a horrific scene of the alien morphing its form to try and take out the threat or get away. Some have said that the effects are too good, but I think that’s a positive. Nothing is worse than bad CGI effects or bad practical effects. This is meant to be a ghoulish monstrous alien lifeform. It should look utterly disgusting and very creature-like.

canva-photo-editor (68).png

I have no real critical issue with this version of The Thing. In terms of my horror criteria, it’s pretty much a perfect horror film. There is a reason the many comic adaptations and the terrible prequel film failed, and why more people prefer and love John Carpenter’s cinematic masterpiece. Could some of the characters have had more to them than what they got? Sure, but in the end, I was still invested from beginning to end with wanting every man there to survive and not get absorbed or killed by one of cinema’s most terrifying creatures. If for some reason you don’t own this movie, Shout! Factory has recently released a beautiful new enhanced version for blu-ray, and I can’t stop recommending this movie enough. I know it’s past Halloween, but that’s not going to stop me from saying, play it again!

5: Upgrade Review

canva-photo-editor.png

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

What does Pacific Rim: Uprising, Peter Rabbit, Tomb Raider, Proud Mary, The Titan, Action Point, Gringo, The Outsider, Mute, and A Futile and Stupid Gesture have in common? These are just a handful of films I have seen this year, where I felt like we were supposed to get one kind of film, but either through bad marketing, or simply bad filmmaking, we didn’t get them. Some came closer than others to giving us what we wanted, but they all failed at certain levels. I decided to talk about a film that not only gives us what we want, but also more. The film in question is Upgrade, directed by Leigh Whannell.

canva-photo-editor (1).png

The story revolves around a stay-at-home mechanic named Grey Trace, played by Logan Marshall-Green. He does custom car requests while his wife, Asha, played by Melanie Vallejo, works for a high-tech company known as Cobolt. After taking a refurbished car to a client named Eron Keen, they get ambushed by a group of hitmen that leave Grey a quadriplegic and Asha dead. After moping around as a quadriplegic, Grey gets an offer from his last client, Eron Keen, played by Harrrison Gilbertson, to stick a highly advanced AI chip named STEM into the back of Grey’s neck that will help him walk again. After getting used to walking, Grey begins to hear the chip talking to him, and is voiced by Simon Maiden. He offers Grey the opportunity to find these hitmen and take them down, hoping to solve the mystery of who sent them, and why they killed his wife.

canva-photo-editor (2).png

When you first see the trailer, it looks like it’s going to be a hyper-violent sci-fi romp. Well, thankfully, while they do show most of the action scenes for probably marketing reasons, it’s so much fun! You know how The Revenant was shot to make you follow the action up close to make you feel like you were there? Upgrade does that in a similar way. Each time Grey lets STEM take over, the camera turns robotic and wonky, but not in a messy or amateur-hour sort of way. STEM essentially controls Grey like a puppet, so his movements match that whenever the action scenes decide to kick in. It makes for some of the best action that’s not from a superhero movie in 2018. It’s surprisingly gory, but that’s part of the fun. It’s brutal, in your face, and hugely entertaining to watch. Definitely don’t watch this if you get turned off by hyper-violence, but keep chugging along if you do! To make this not just a pulp violent schlockfest, the story that tackles the commentary about how far will we let technology go, and the overreliance of said technology, does lead to a really captivating mystery as to who sent the hitmen after Grey and his wife. I wasn’t really expecting that, because I was ready to succumb to the gory ride, but was glad to see there was more under the hood. It turns what you would find in a direct-to-video bargain bin from the 80s and 90s, into a rather captivating sci-fi thriller. It’s a fairly focused story that keeps you invested in Grey and his mission, and while it does sort of turn into a Black Mirror episode by the end, I loved it. Logan Marshall-Green does a great job at portraying a slightly jaded, but grounded individual, and brings a lot of great deliveries to the film’s nice splash of dark comedy. I mean, how would you act for the first time you let a highly advanced AI chip control your body without your control, and you kept seeing yourself do all of these amazing action film set-piece movements?

canva-photo-editor (5).png

With all that said, I do have one major problem with the film, and it’s the fact that out of 90 or so minutes, it takes up to 20 minutes to get to the stuff people want. Granted, the stuff they do show beforehand gets you invested into its story, but you wish that they either cut that part down a bit, or made the movie longer. While the action and story was great, I was always itching for one more action sequence. Just something more, but knowing how this is a partly Blumhouse-produced film, the budget wasn’t all that big, and they could only do so many action scenes. It just would have been nice, since the film repeats its structure after Grey gets STEM, and I personally felt like they could have added another action scene, due to how fun all of the action is. It makes you wonder what they could do with a sequel or spiritual successor to this film, if they set it up more in terms of John Wick Part 2’s pacing.

canva-photo-editor (4).png

Even despite all that, I found Upgrade to be one of 2018’s best surprises. It tackles its grimy sci-fi look perfectly, the action is some of 2018’s best, and the body-horror cybernetics that many of the characters have are effective. I wish it had a bit more action, and we got to the blood and grunge faster, but if you, for some reason, haven’t been able to see this film yet, definitely go buy it right now. I mean, if you are into this type of film. It’s a gory, bloody, pulpy, darkly comedic, and action-heavy ride that definitely wants me to yell “Play it Again, Cam!”

4: Ant-Man Review

ant1.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

So, I wanted to always tackle superhero films for these live-action reviews. However, no matter if they were DC, Marvel, or some other indie company, I never really want to rewatch them. I definitely enjoy the Marvel films, but I don’t ever think about watching all of them again. I would argue that maybe eight or so of the current Marvel films that have been made under the Disney banner are ones I would definitely rewatch. Since we are past the two giant Marvel films of the year with Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, I decided to review the film starring our pint-size hero, Ant-Man by director Peyton Reed.

ant2.jpg

The story focuses on a recently released criminal/ex systems engineer named Scott Lang, played by Paul Rudd. After being released from prison, and failing to make a living for himself, he decides to take an offer to pull off a heist at a mansion owned by Hank Pym, played by Michael Douglas. After getting his crew, that includes Luis, played by Michael Pena, Dave, played by TIP Harris, and Kurt, played by David Dasmalchian, he breaks into the mansion to see what’s inside. Scott finds a large safe that includes a super suit. After putting the suit on, Scott realizes that the suit gives him the ability to shrink down to the size of an ant, or even smaller. Scott gets contacted by the creator of the suit, Hank Pym, and gets wrapped up into a mission to take down an individual who wants to weaponize Hank’s technology. Can he stop the maniacal Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll, before he can take over the world with Hank’s inventions?

Before we get started, people are going to probably wonder if I side with the people who were mad that Edgar Wright was kicked off this project. Well, to be frank, I don’t care. I love the director, but this kind of stuff happens. The classic Wizard of Oz went through multiple directors and development changes. It doesn’t always end up with a good product, but I’m judging Ant-Man for what we received, and not bash the film, because the original director was going to be Edgar Wright. Now then, let’s get to the rest of the review.

ant4.jpg

I think what I like about this movie is that while it’s a superhero movie, and a superhero that could be considered an odd choice, they take full advantage of having fun with this premise.  The best way for superhero films to evolve is to simply be more than superhero films. I mean, that sounds weird, but let me explain. In spite of it being a Marvel superhero film, it’s more in line with a heist film. It doesn’t skimp on the fact that our hero is in a size-changing suit either. Anything that you can think of in the range of a normal Marvel film is done here. A lot of the best moments of the film are Paul Rudd changing size. Seeing him jump in the air, shrinking, running up a gun and knocking a henchman out, while in that tiny form, is a highlight of the film. Scenes like that are what make the film fun. Of course, the most memorable moment is with Ant-Man and Yellowjacket being tiny, and fighting on a Thomas the Tank Engine trainset. It’s flashy, funny, and you really get the scale of how small they are, and how big everything else is. I mean, when you have a superhero that can change his size, and control ants, you make sure that’s a huge focus. They somehow made ants adorable, and each species have their own distinct personalities. If this was a superhero film back in the early 2000s, this character would have suffered from bad adaptations, and no one really having an idea on how to use him. I think getting Paul Rudd as the lead character was the perfect choice. I like that while he can be tech savvy in certain areas, he’s more grounded as a normal guy among the more tech savvy individuals in the MCU. He also has charm for days. He is simply a great actor. Corey Stoll is also fun as the villain. He isn’t one of the greatest villains of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he’s one of the more entertaining, because he’s just so slimy and obviously evil. Evangeline Lilly and Michael Scott are also great as Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne, but they are pretty much secondary for the first film, and are way better utilized in the recently released sequel (which will also get a review in the future). Of course, everyone remembers and references Michael Peña as Luis, and how he has these amazing and incredibly hilarious ways of recapping stories. Whether this was part of Edgar Wright’s original script or not, these sequences bring in some of the best comedy in the Marvel films.

ant5.jpg

While I do find myself watching this movie a lot, I have some problems with it. Sometimes, the story doesn’t flow as well from one point to another, some of the jokes could have been cut out, the Baskin Robbins scene went on a bit too long, and it’s yet another origin story with some fairly predictable story beats. Granted, when this came out, it was a cleanser for the intense story and moments of Age of Ultron, but it could have had a bit more substance to the story and certain characters. I also found the Yellowjacket suit to be fairly generic-looking. At least the excuse you can have for Ant-Man’s suit is that the retro-style suit would not have translated at all into live-action. I wish there was a bit more creativity with his design.

ant6.jpg

Still, I love Ant-Man and it tends to be one of my personal favorites of the Marvel films from Disney. It’s creative, fun, I like Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, and I love watching it every time it’s on TV. This is why I love Marvel. They can take certain heroes from their catalog of characters, even the oddest heroes, and make them work. I would definitely recommend this one if you want something different from your normal superhero films. It’s an entertaining experience that makes me want to shrink down, and Play It Again!

3: The Death of Stalin Review

stalin1.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

A comment I see in my line of writing/work is that people want politics to stay out of their video games, shows, and movies. Well, hate to be that guy, but politics are in everything. Every artistic decision has some kind of leaning or belief behind it. You literally can’t escape it, and there is nowhere to go when you are watching a political comedy. These are films that I tend to not really want to watch, because I want to be engaged with the jokes, the writing, the characters, and the story. Yes, I’m expecting a political point of view in the writing and directing, but if that’s all I’m seeing, then you are going to simply get labeled as propaganda, which sadly happens more than you would think. Thankfully, I recently watched a really funny comedy that I wish more people could see, The Death of Stalin, directed by Armando Iannucci.

stalin2.jpg

It’s the 1950s, and the tyrannical Stalin, played by Adrian McLoughlin, is the big cheese in Russia. Well, that is until he has a stroke and falls to the ground dead as a door nail. This causes all of his close personal co-workers/friends, like Nikita Khruschev, played by Steve Buscemi, Laverntiy Beria, played by Simon Russell Beale, Vyacheslav Molotov, played by Michael Palin, Gorgy Malenkov, played by Jeffery Tambor, and so on, to panic. I mean, their leader is dead! It then becomes this mad dash to see who becomes the leader of Russia, who get what position of power, and who they need to sway to get on their good side. Let’s just say that this leads to some clever and well-written shenanigans.

stalin6.jpg

I think what really gels about this film is how its political comedy works, and how the film survives as its own comedy. I mean, what’s funnier than to see a tyrannical government lose its head like a chicken, and run around in a panic, as they all try to get ahead of one another and backstab whoever in order to get the job done? I mean, yes, a lot of what people have said is true, that the buffoonery from the entire committee is very telling in how it mirrors our current political climate, but even if you took that part out, it’s still really funny. I mean, it’s almost too comical in how obvious they are trying to get ahead of one another, trying to make sure they still get their nice seat on the committee, and not end up on one of the infamous kill lists. Another aspect of the comedy I liked is that it also has other bits of humor, like having little background gags from time to time. This film has probably the most consistent laughs that I have seen in a comedy from 2018. Everyone delivers great lines, there are fantastic performances, and it finds a way to balance out the laughs and the fact that these are people who have done some unquestionably horrible things. It does not shy away from the fact that this government has kept their people under an iron fist, and have either banished, tortured, or killed whoever they needed.

stalin4.jpg

I like the actors chosen for the roles. While I definitely love Steve Buscemi as the calm-headed middle man, Simon Russell Beale as the power hungry individual, Rupert Friend as Stalin’s constantly drunk son, Jeffery Tambor as the bumbling incompetent right hand, and a lot of the major cast, I have to pinpoint that the best character in the film was Jason Isaacs as Georgy Shukov. Isaacs plays this macho foul-tempered man, and he steals every scene that he is in. He has the best lines, the best introduction to his character, and it was simply fun to see Jason Isaacs again. Really, the best thing about this film is that everyone had a good role, a funny line, a humorous sequence, and no one felt like dead weight or was unnecessary.

stalin5.jpg

My one major complaint about the film is that the last third, while still entertaining, doesn’t balance out the comedy and drama as well as the first two-thirds of the film. It tends to lean more on the dramatic side of things, and while I definitely understand why the film went that way, I wish it was more like the first two-thirds. Then again, when you are about to cause a mutiny with one of your longest standing co-workers, filling out the sequence with jokes probably would have been in bad taste. I almost forgot to put this in, but after what has been going on in Hollywood, it is awkward to see Jeffery Tambor in the film. He’s funny and he plays his part well, but like TJ Miller in Ready Player One, it’s unfortunate timing to be seeing him in this film.

stalin7.jpg

I really loved The Death of Stalin. It was a comedy I was not expecting to enjoy, and it was a film I came out of smiling from ear to ear. Unlike some comedies, I think The Death of Stalin will still hold up years from now. While it can definitely be connected to our current political climate, with who’s in office and our conflict with Russia, I feel like you can take the film and place it during different points in history, and somehow find a way to connect the characters and actions to certain points in time. I have seen this twice as of writing this review, and I definitely will want to see it again. It’s a political comedy that aims for a home run, and hits it out of the park. You will definitely want to play it again!

2: The Big Sick Review

sick1.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Parental Warning/Heads Up!: This film has a good chunk of adult jokes, cursing, and might not be suitable for younger viewers. Viewer’s discretion is advised. Thanks for reading this.

A genre I find struggling and stumbling across the finish line many times are films of the comedy/romance genre. Sure, there are plenty of films with great romantic chemistry between characters, but films in the comedy/romance genre don’t tend to have a lot of variety to them, and while there are plenty of classics in the genre, not many know how to keep it fresh and interesting. At worst, most romantic comedies tend to come off very cookie cutter, and on the rare occasion, unintentionally come off as the characters being really terrible people. It’s tough, since you want to have an amazing story, or a very well-executed story with characters you want to invest your time into and want to get together. I definitely don’t find romance-focused films to have a lot of rewatchability, but I have definitely found a few that make me want to say “play it again!” What films am I talking about? For this review, it’s the 2017 hit The Big Sick, which was directed by Michael Showalter, produced by Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel, and written by Emily V Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani.

sick2.jpg

The Big Sick talks about the real life story of how our star Kumail Nanjiani is a Pakistani standup comedian in Chicago. While trying to get his big break, he meets who would be his future wife Emily V. Gordon, who in this film is named Emily Gardner, played by Zoe Kazan. They hit it off, and become romantically connected, while he has to deal with his family trying to hook him up with Pakistani women. One day, Emily gets dangerously ill, and ends up in a coma. Kumail not only has to deal with that, but also her parents played by Ray Romano and Holly Hunter. Will Emily make it out alive? What will happen when Kumail interacts with her parents?

sick5.jpg

This might sound clichéd and film snobbish, but The Big Sick’s greatest offering is how much heart and soul is in this story. When you hear about a movie coming out that is based on a real life story/event, you get thoughts of the studio romanticizing the entire event or turning it into propaganda for a certain group of individuals. Thankfully, this is not the case with this story. Everything from the acting, the writing, the jokes, to the arc of the story felt genuine. No one is acting like caricatures of the tropes you see in romantic-comedies. Even the members of Kumail’s family in the film would normally be played as the butt of the joke, but are not.  It’s refreshing to see a romance story that’s more grounded. Yes, I love films like Moonstruck that have more comedic characteristics and expressive characters, but playing it grounded was needed for this story.

sick4.jpg

The actors all worked off each other well, and the comedy was really funny. I mean, I wasn’t holding my sides or out of breath, but the jokes were legit hilarious. So many comedies these days want to have the comedy stars adlib their lines, and it gets tiring when the director doesn’t tell them to stop or try out different takes. I think what makes it all work is that the film isn’t trying to make some out-of-touch fantasy setting like The Back Up Plan. Everything from the small talk to the awkward words of wisdom all connected to me while I was watching. I have been in situations where good comedy came out of small talk, and talks of wisdom ended up not sounding as good out-loud. I also think the story works because of the actors themselves. I am not fully familiar with Kumail, besides some voice-over roles in films like LEGO Ninjago and his guest appearances on HarmonQuest, and I was curious if he could hold the film as the lead. To my happy surprise, Kumail was funny, charming, kind, and incredibly likable. This is definitely one actor in Hollywood that you should be following.  Of course, the actress playing Emily, Zoe Kazan, does a great job with a believable quirkiness to her, and as many people have pointed out, Holly Hunter and Ray Romano nail it as Emily’s parents. Both have some of the best acting in their careers. Don’t worry, Ray, your performance here makes up for the last couple of Ice Age films. Seriously though, this film has some of my favorite performances of 2017. They do a great job balancing out the comedy and the drama. When the characters are feeling good, you can feel that, and when they are hurt or in pain, again, you feel that.

sick3.jpg

It’s good, as a film critic, to point out the pros and the cons for every film, though, I can’t really find anything that would be considered a deal breaker. Maybe the film is a touch long at almost two hours? Then again, I can’t really think of any scenes I would cut out. While this film does expand on a familiar formula, some of the more “predictable” sequences did come up, but due to how the overall film was executed, the story had me hooked. I’m trying to find something that I could really say hurt the film, but The Big Sick set out in its goal to tell a compelling and loving story about how Kumail met Emily, and it did a fantastic job at what it set out to do.

sick6.jpg

The Big Sick was wonderful and charming. I was so happy it was a case of a good trailer that ended up with an amazing movie, and one of my favorites from 2017. I have to hand it to Kumail for taking a genre of film that is hard to make good these days, and make a real-to-life story about him from his days as a stand-up comedian, his relationship with his family, and Emily, to even her parents. It’s widely available on Amazon Prime for free, but even if you don’t have Prime, buy the movie. Kumail and Emily hit it out of the park, and they made a movie that will definitely make me want to play it again!

1: From Dusk Till Dawn Review

dusk1.jpg

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Parental Warning/Heads Up!: This film is not meant for kids! It includes swearing, violence, nudity, graphic content, guns worn around the groin, sex, cursing, gore, and so on. Do not show this to your kids. Viewer’s discretion is advised. I will also be talking about the movie as a whole, since I can’t talk about it without spoiling it.

dusk2.jpg

When I was picking films to review for Play it Again, I wanted to not pick typical super-cheesy or sleazy schlock. Even when it comes to making schlock, there is an art and proper execution for making B movie-style films. Sure, you can be more violent, over-the-top, self-aware, or sexual, but it doesn’t mean you can slack off in the other departments. It’s why I found the perfect film for this whole philosophy of well-made B movie entertainment that is more A-grade than B-grade. What film is that? It’s the Quinten Tarantino-written and Robert Rodriguez-directed, From Dusk Til Dawn.

dusk3.jpg

The story follows two brothers, Seth and Richie Gecko, played by George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino. They are running away from the police after pulling off a heist, killing some people, and taking a bank teller hostage. They stop at a hotel, and end up taking a family including an ex-priest, Jacob Fuller, played by Harvey Keitel, his daughter Katherine Fuller, played by Juliette Lewis, and his adopted son, Scott Fuller, played by Ernest Liu. The two brothers end up using them to get across the border to Mexico. Seth tells the family that they are going to a strip club called The Titty Twister to wait for his “business” partner to arrive there at dawn. Unfortunately for them, after seeing a tantalizing dance from a stripper, played by Salma Hayek, they end up finding out, along with the other truckers and bikers, that The Titty Twister is a hive of vampires! Stuff hits the fan, and they have to find a way to survive until dawn. They team up with a biker named Sex Machine, played by Tom Savini, and a Vietnam vet named Frost, played by Fred Williamson. Can they make it out alive, or will the vampires be having an “all you can drink” buffet?

dusk4.jpg

The first criticism I hear about this film all the time is the tonal shift. At first, it starts out as a fairly serious and imposing crime thriller. Every scene with the two brothers and the kidnapped bank-teller is filled with constant dread, due to how violent the two can be. Then halfway through, it turns into a B-movie with a stripper joint being the den of a horde of vampires. I can understand that being very jarring to some people, but at the same time, did people not see the shootout at the beginning of the film? Yeah, it had its serious moments, but it was also fun to watch, as you wait to see who pulled the trigger first. I can respect that back when this was released, this was jarring, and people didn’t like getting caught off-guard due to the sudden change, but if you sit back, and let it happen, it turns into one of the most entertaining tributes to B-movies of all of cinema. I think some people forget a lot of B-movies would have sudden change in tone or plot, and a lot of them are fondly remembered. There is just something so tantalizing about watching this film from start to finish.

dusk5.jpg

From the quick witty writing of Tarantino, to one of Robert Rodriguez’s best directorial works, it’s a blast to watch all the characters work off one another to survive until dawn and to not be bitten or turned into vampires themselves. All the characters are memorable, and all have pretty great lines. It’s easily a film I quote when I’m talking with friends or quoting it back and forth with my parents. Yeah, I had cool parents who loved movies like this. The bar scene is especially memorable as you start from the dusty roads outside the bar, a loud and maniacal Cheech Marin, who is in this film three times, barking out that the girls are hot, and you walk in with the killer rock band, and Danny Trejo being your bartender. Of course, one of the most iconic scenes is the sexy and sultry dance done by Salma Hayek. It’s a bit sleazy, but it’s a strip joint, there is no Build-a-Bear Workshop built in. For the most part, the practical effects for the vampire make-up are superb, as everyone looks disgusting and monstrous. They even throw in a rat monster, just because they could. Some of the early CGI-dissolves look dated, but you don’t really focus on that when Tom Savini has a revolver gun around his groin and isn’t afraid to use it.

dusk6.jpg

Even through all this madness, there is still this emotional investment with making sure everyone makes it out alive. While some characters get the short end of the stick, like Frost, you still feel bad for anyone that gets bitten or killed. It’s weird to say you stay emotionally invested when this sounds like an utter schlockfest, but you do. I wish some characters could have stuck around a little more, we could have gotten some other monster designs, and seen the sweet weapons in the final confrontation used more, but I don’t have a lot to complain about.

dusk7.jpg

From Dusk Til Dawn can be sleazy, jarring, scary, funny, full of cursing, blood, and action-packed vampire killing, but that’s also why I love it so much. It knew how to execute everything, and it makes for one of the craziest rides of 1996. I know this film got a sequel, a prequel, and a retelling of the entire mythos in the form of a TV series, but really, all you need or really want to see is the first movie. It’s widely available, and if you are into fun movies with a unique flavor to them, then by all means, pick up this awesome gem. As far as I can tell, From Dusk Til Dawn might be one of my all-time favorite movies, and is easily one where I will be saying, “Play it Again, Cam!”