From Dusk Till Dawn is a supernatural series from executive producer Robert Rodriguez and the El Rey Network based on Rodriguez’s and Quentin Tarantino’s 1996 film of the same name. Set in Texas, the series revolves around two brothers, Seth (D.J. Cotrona) and Richie (Zane Holtz) Gecko who pull off a major bank heist. With a rabid Texas Ranger (Jesse Garcia) on their trail who won’t quit until he takes revenge on the Gekos for killing his partner (Don Johnson), they head for the Mexican boarder with the help of feared crime lord Carlos (Wilmer Valderrama; TV’s That 70s Show) but not before taking a family hostage and along for the arduous, tense journey. They eventually end up across the boarder at a sleazy strip club where they discover that the crime syndicate they are involved with isn’t your average crime family, but a bloodsucking, vampire-like coven of serpent-worshiping night creatures.
Rodriguez’s series has all the earmarks of his usual grindhouse style, including some moments that just don’t make sense. For example, someone knocking a person out in broad daylight at the crowded Mexican boarder crossing, dragging them into an RV, and no one noticing this, not even the numerous boarder patrol agents. Those things aside, From Dusk Till Dawn takes viewers on a wild, uneasy ride. A cross between a road film and a supernatural thriller (Richie Gecko has visions of the future and seems to be able to read people’s thoughts), the series is best when it gets into the intense emotions of the various characters, especially the family of hostages who are picked up by the Geckos. Played by Robert Patrick as the father, a former pastor Jacob Fuller, and Brandon Soo Hoo and Madison Davenport and his son and daughter Scott and Kate, this is a family falling apart from secrets and distrust of each other and their former faith in God.
But, this being a Robert Rodriguez production, one would expect some blood and guts, and From Dusk Till Dawn does supply that, and supply it in busloads. Throughout, we get glimpses of bloodsucking creatures tearing into throats, fangs protruding gruesomely from mouths, eyes torn out of sockets, but it isn’t until the episode “Santanica Pandemonium” where the real violence, and circus-like atmosphere begins. The episode is a virtual orgy of blood splatter as the Geckos, the Fullers, and Texas Ranger Gonzalez all end up in swarm of bloodsucking creatures attacking the unwitting patrons of the strip club. It is grindhouse fare at its best — or worst, depending on how you look at it.
Shot in HD on the Arri Alexa, From Dusk Till Dawn has a rather dull and murky appearance at times that doesn’t really stand out very well in high definition. The primaries, especially those vermillion reds, however, pop quite nicely and there is a fair amount of detail in this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement.
Entertainment One does their usual and supplies both a lossless English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and lossy English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. While the lossless 5.1 mix does sound just a bit cleaner and less pushed volume-wise, there is little difference. The mix is good on atmospherics, but not so much on dynamics, as it tends to want to stay fairly loud. This works during the insane bloodbath during the episode “Santanica Pandemonium”.
- Audio Commentaries:
- “Pilot” with D.J. Cotrona (Seth Gecko), Brandon Soo Hoo (Scott Fuller), Carlos Coto (writer), Eiza Gonzalez (Santánico Pandemonium), Jesse Garcia (Freddie Gonzalez), Robert Rodriguez (EP & director), Zane Holtz (Richie Gecko)
- “Blood Runs Thick” with Carlos Coto (EP & writer), Diego Gutierrez (co-EP & writer)
- “Place of Dead Roads” with Alvaro Rodriguez (writer), Carlos Coto (EP & writer), Dwight Little (director) and Jesse Garcia (Freddie Gonzalez)
- “Pandemonium” with D.J. Cotrona (Seth Gecko), Brandon Soo Hoo (Scott Fuller), Carlos Coto (EP & writer), Eiza Gonzalez (Santánico Pandemonium), Jesse Garcia (Freddie Gonzalez), Robert Rodriguez (EP & & director), Wilmer Valderrama (Carlos), Zane Holtz (Richie Gecko)
- “La Conquista” with Carlos Coto (EP & writer), Fede Alvarez (director), and Marcel Rodriguez (writer)
- “The Take” with Alvaro Rodriguez (writer), Carlos Coto (EP & writer), Jesse Garcia (Freddie Gonzalez), Robert Patrick (Jacob Fuller), Zane Holtz (Richie Gecko)
- Full Length Trailer (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:02:02)
- Best Kills Video (1.78:1; 1080i/260; 00:01:02)
- On Set: Episode 1 Day 1 (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:02:02)
- On Set: The Making of From Dusk Till Dawn (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:23:08)
- Behind the Scenes “On Set: Brought to You By General Motors” (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:02:08)
- Behind the Scenes: “On Set: Brought to You by Dos Equis” (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:00:32)
- Character Bio Featurettes (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:05:03)
- General Motors Commercial Featuring Seth Gecko (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:01:02)
- Dos Equis Commercial Featuring Carlos Madrigal (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:01:02)
- Big Kahuna Commercial (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:00:32)
- What’s in the Briefcase Spot (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:00:22)
- SXSW Featurette (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:01:02)
- Q&A from Premiere at Alamo Drafthouse with Robert Rodriguez and Cast (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 00:33:59)
The Definitive Word
From Dusk Till Dawn is certainly entertaining escapism, even if it has its ups and downs. The series starts out with a rather serious tone, but by the time you reach the end it has turned so campy it gives True Blood a run for its money. No, strike that — it’s far campier than TB ever was. It’s difficult to assess just where this series will go after this first season, but it’s an enjoyable if not perfect first one.
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