Wednesday, July 6, 2016

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series


   I always liked the original From Dusk till Dawn. I wasn't a rabid fan, but it was a neat little movie that was always fun to put on when friends were over. It's one half a hostage/thriller, with two bank robber brothers making a break for the border... and one half an insane, over-the-top, vampire blood-fest. It was off-kilter in the best way, and sporting a great cast nonetheless. So just how in the ever-loving hell was a TV show about it going to be any good? A TV show that not only remakes the movie over the span of it's first season, but lays groundwork to continue from there? How this had any potential to be better than an ill-conceived SyFy channel yuck-fest is beyond me. Yet here we frickin' are, and this show... is real damn good.

   D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz do a fantastic job as Seth and Richie Gecko, respectively. I was less concerned about them filling the shoes of Clooney and Tarantino, and more concerned about them carrying a whole show. I mean, I don't know these actors from jack shit. Yet, they did a damn fine job as the leads. Especially Holtz, who has a lot more material to act through than Tarantino did in the role. Breaking the rest of the cast down, I genuinely got a kick out of Robert Patrick in the dad role of Jacob Fuller, previously played by Harvey Keitel. Yeah, Patrick is at that point in his career where he can play dads and pastors. Thankfully he's still in badass stuff like this, and not just sitcoms or whatever. Moving on...

   I never liked Juliette Lewis. Just throwing that out there. I never liked her, and watching her in movies has always been genuinely hard for me. I don't even know why precisely, but in the role of Kate, Madison Davenport was immediately a massive upgrade for me. She plays Kate as smart and troubled, but loyal and deeply spiritual. Scott Fuller is played by Brandon Soo Hoo in this one and Ernest Liu in the original- a guy who's now so obscure he doesn't even have a wikipedia page, and his two most recent roles were as "Boy #2" and "Guy in studio". It's not hard to top a kid who's face I can barely remember. Not to mention, Brandon, like every other actor on the show has a LOT more material to work with. He makes Scott into more of a character than Liu was ever meant to.

    Jake Busey plays a professor, an expert in Aztec archaeology or something, but his character also has another role on the show that I don't dare spoil for you, because it's so damn fun. For every lack of a Clooney or a Keitel, we get a Busey or a Patrick in a different area. The casting in this show is bang on. Jake Busey, Robert Patrick, Don Johnson, and later on James Remar and William Sadler? Even if some of these guys only have bit parts, this is totally fucking awesome! You don't get secondary casting this perfect anywhere else. Seriously! All we need now is Christopher Lambert or Clancy Brown, and we'll have a stew going. Four paragraphs in and I've only gushed about the cast so far, but seriously, the cast is great in this show.

   Anyways, whereas the original movie just handled the vampires and their den very matter-of-factly, the show infuses a whole massive lore behind them, and maybe Richie isn't... just... a psychopath. In fact, maybe he's not actually a psychopath at all? This thread running through the show ties everything together really well, strengthening the narrative and putting some more purpose behind the latter episodes of season 1. The whole season is bursting with character cameos, new characters, new spins on familiar characters, and tons of action. Whether it's outlaw running-and-gunning, or vamp slaying action, the show is a non-stop thrill ride. Never dull.

   I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the slick and stunning visuals of the show. There's a real energetic feel to everything, and that's married to some trippy Jacob's Ladder-eque visuals. I loved it. Also, the show is completely awash in gore, with the movie's second half spread over a whole second half of a TV show's season, there's a lot more action, and a lot more blood than the movie ever even had the time to spill. It's 50/50 though. I can tell there was a real push to use 'real' fake blood, but some of the kills are so elaborate that CGI had to be used, and y'know, I'm okay with it. It hardly ever looks as good as their practical fake blood does, but they do use both and both in copious amounts. Gore hounds will love this shit. Aside from Ash Vs. Evil Dead, this is probably the bloodiest show on right now. Certainly a contender for the most fun.

   Overall, it's incredibly faithful to the original movie, while also updating the story and expanding on it in meaningful and sensible ways. They change a few things throughout, laying the groundwork for a continuing story line, but make no mistake- season 1 is the movie, through and through, but like an ultimate edition extended cut of the movie with a ton of new stuff thrown in. It's so expansive and intense and fun, I think I even like it more than the movie! Especially because of the prospects that future seasons have. With all the new stuff that the characters get to experience and play with, I'm super excited to dig into season 2 and see what's coming for them.  I was never interested in the DTV prequels to the original movie, it simply made no sense to me to go backwards, but that's not a problem now is it? This show is the kind of thing that glorious Netflix binges are made of.

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