Friday, March 21, 2014

PILOT REVIEW: From Dusk Till Dawn - The Series


I have watched the premiere of the pilot for the new El Rey Network series...From Dusk Till Dawn  4 times...and I still don't know what to make of it.

First and foremost, I would like to mention how huge of a fan of the original film I am. From Dusk Till Dawn  absolutely blew me away when I first watched it in a theater all those years ago. It was fresh, it was explosive and it offered something completely different from the usual horror films that came out in the 90's. It was a funny, well written actioner disguised as a horror film. Or maybe it was the other way around. It was a great one-two punch from Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, as it brought out the best of both filmmakers - smart/razor sharp dialogue and a knack for delivering off-the-wall direction.  The film was fucking awesome and I still watch it whenever I get the opportunity. So, it goes without saying that when I first heard of the film being turned into a weekly TV show...I was both skeptical and excited.

Well...after watching the pilot...I'm more skeptical than excited.

Now...before you go cursing me out for hating on an iconic filmmaker and an arguably iconic horror film...I can't really put my finger on the disappointment that I felt after watching the pilot. In fact, that's kind of why I took awhile to finally post this review. I wanted to make sure that I was sure about my dissatisfaction before I made it public. I mean...this is kind of a huge deal for Rodriguez...as it's the flagship for this new network El Rey. And I realize that he has been such a beacon of hope for young, aspiring independent filmmakers...inspiring them to blaze a path for themselves and create new visions on their own terms. There is no questioning how much of an influence that Troublemaker Studios (formerly Los Hooligans) has had on the landscape of modern day independent genre filmmaking. So, to call out such an icon for a subpar television show feels kind of blasphemous. But, I'm not gonna lie to you guys about something that I just didn't feel too good about. But, before I go on about the not-so-good...let's talk about the really awesome stuff.


From Dusk Till Dawn - The Series seamlessly echoes the feel of the original film. You definitely know the characters and the setting because you've been there before with everyone...almost like an old friend that you haven't seen in ages. Hell, even Benny's World of Liquor is intact (for now). I love the familiarity of it all because the show immerses the viewer deeper into the universe that the film introduced. Giving us a better look into the back story and origins of some of the characters.

Now, when talking about character performances...I just wanna get this off of my chest first and foremost. I fucking love Michael Parks. That's not really a secret around these parts. So, to see Don Johnson step into the role that Parks made his own as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw is not as painful as I would have thought. Johnson is pretty much doing his best Michael Parks impersonation...without that special something that Parks brings to each role. That's not to say that it's a bad performance...because, to tell the truth...Johnson is probably the best thing in this entire pilot. I would even go so far as to say that it his most enjoyable performance in years. Unfortunately, as the fans of the original film are very well aware of...his time in the whole series is pretty much limited once he steps inside of Benny's World of Liquor. So, the best thing that the series had going for it so far is a goner. However, I read that Robert Patrick (From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money) will be stepping into the role that Mr. Harvey fucking Keitel made awesome....so, there's that. Hopefully, Patrick will be a mean, mmhm mmhm servant of God.

Making my way over to the Gecko brothers, I would say that the two actors chosen to play the iconic roles of Seth and Richie are pretty serviceable, if not as memorable. D.J. Cotrona is relegated to playing George Clooney playing Seth Gecko...so, there's really nothing new to bring to the table, as far as his performance. But, I will say that it is kinda fun watching Cotrona mimic Clooney's mannerisms and repeat those memorable lines. Of the two actors, Zane Holtz is really the stand out, putting his own stamp on Richie. He feels much more intimidating, physically, than Tarantino ever did. And, let's face it...Quentin is no actor...so, Holtz can really have fun with the role...creating something altogether different from the original. 


Remember Cheech Marin's Carlos from the first film? Well, now he's Wilmer Valderrama...and he seems to be a bit more integral to the whole show. And if the trailers are any indication, I'm somewhat a little worried about Fez turning into a big vampiric snake later on in the series. But, I'll give him a chance. I'll also give Eiza Gonzalez a chance, despite her stepping into the role of Santanico Pandemonium because my mom watches tons of novellas on Univision and I've seen how hot she can be. But, a 1996 Salma Hayak Gonzalez is not...so, we will see. 

I would say that my biggest gripe about this new cast is also one of the biggest pieces. Jesse Garcia plays Ranger Freddie Gonzalez...and I'm not really all that crazy about the guy just yet. If you know the film then you'll surely know that McGraw is pretty much the first casualty in the story. However, The Series introduces Gonzalez as his younger partner...hellbent on vengeance. And...I'm not really buying what the guy is selling quite yet. I mean...I would forgive stuff like the Rangers yelling out their plan in the middle of the liquor store while the Gecko brothers are an earshot away...in an irritating, dragged out scene...if only the show gave us someone to truly get behind. And I just can't really get behind Gonzalez yet. Maybe he'll grow on me as the series progresses...but, one of the hallmarks to any great show is likable characters that you root for...and so far I'm rooting for the Gecko brothers.

Aside from some really suspect CGI early on, there's promise of some great practical effects that has the gorehound in me salivating with excitement. Hopefully, there's some good storytelling to go along with that gore. And I'm not saying that Robert Rodriquez is a bad storyteller...like, not even in the slightest. But, the man hasn't exactly been on top of his game in the last decade. Planet Terror  and Sin City  are his last best efforts. I'm not gonna give him the Machete  films because I feel like that's just Rodriquez fucking around. It's not bad...but, it's not exactly memorable filmmaking, either.

I would say that From Dusk Till Dawn - The Series  is a decent addition to your horror television viewing. Just don't expect anything as mind-blowing and awesome as the original film that started it all. DVR it for now.



Thanks for reading,

bryan.




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