It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Robert Rodriguez’s now-classic vampire B-movie From Dusk Till Dawn was unleashed upon the world. The fact that it was a moderately successful January release is quit astounding. To celebrate the occasion, we thought we would take a look back at this badass movie, which has now been adapted into its own TV show for Rodriguez’s new(ish) El Rey Network.
Released on January 19th, 1996, From Dusk Till Dawn was met with mostly positive critical acclaim. It currently sits at a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is no small feat for a horror film released in January (just look at this year’s The Forest for one of the many sub-par January-released horror films). Hell, even Roger Ebert awarded the film three out of four stars.
It opened at the #1 spot with $10.2 million ($15.4 million in 2016 dollars) and went on to gross a total of $25.8 million domestically ($39 million in 2016 dollars). That is a small profit for a film with a budget of $19 million, and while that is not a spectacular gross, it’s still solid for an R-rated horror film released in a month that typically sees slower box office returns.
From Dusk Till Dawn is notable for pulling a bait-and-switch with audiences. Anyone who didn’t see the trailer (embedded below) probably walked into the film expecting a heist movie, and for the first hour or so of From Dusk Till Dawn, they would have gotten what the expected. The exact opposite is true for anyone who did see the trailer for the film. They would have walked in expecting a 2-hour vampire brawl. Needless to say that is not the film they went to see.
From Dusk Till Dawn has been criticized for unsuccessfully merging two movies into one disparate whole, but looking back on the film it actually works miraculously. One thing Robert Rodriguez is an expert at is surprising his audience, and From Dusk Till Dawn is probably his greatest achievement of that. One cannot discuss the surprised of From Dusk Till Dawn without mentioning Quentin Tarantino and his incredibly witty script. This was peak Tarantino season, since the film was released just a year and a half after Pulp Fiction.
To this day, it is still surprising to see now-famous stars like George Clooney (back in his E.R. days) and Juliette Lewis in this film. Joining them were Tarantino and Rodriguez staples Harvey Keitel and Danny Trejo, along with a slew of other casting choices that would make you do a double-take today (Cheech Marin, anyone?).
Speaking of unique casting, the true surprise in From Dusk Till Dawn is Salma Hayek’s appearance as Santánico Pandemonium. Her snake dance before morphing into her true vampire form is so iconic that you would be forgiven for thinking that she was a lead character in the film if you had never seen it before.
Not only did From Dusk Till Dawn spawn two direct-to-video sequels and a video game, but it also gave birth to From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series on March 11, 2014. The first season of that show was essentially the original 108-minute film stretched out into 10 hour-long episodes, and was met with lukewarm critical reception. The second season benefited from being able to act as a true sequel to the film and delve into unexplored territory. A third season is set to premiere later this year so it is clear that the series has provided El Rey Network with a decent amount of success.
It is a testament to the original film that we are here talking about it today and that it is still seeing creative properties borne from it. I would even argue that Rodriguez hasn’t been able to match it in terms of fun. Actually, I’m wrong. The Faculty, Sin City and Planet Terror are all very fun films, but I digress. Just forget I even wrote that. We’re here to commemorate From Dusk Till Dawn for providing 20 years of entertainment to horror fans everywhere. When did you first see From Dusk Till Dawn? Do you still enjoy the film or do you think it’s starting to show its age? Share your memories in the comments below and give the film a re-watch this week to celebrate its 20th anniversary!