From Dusk Till Dawn Puts the Bite Back in Vamps

Photo: IMP Awards
Photo: IMP Awards

Some wouldn’t consider From Dusk Till Dawn a horror movie, but I’m not one of them. IMDB has it listed as “action, crime, fantasy,” which makes it sound like a mob movie with dragons. However, From Dusk Till Dawn contains several horror movie elements, and some scenes are quite scary.

The movie ranks pretty high in my favorite vampire movies list. It premiered in an era with so many awesome movies, known as the 90s, when other vampire movies were celebrating the beauty and sexiness of the vamp culture. Think Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992) and Interview With a Vampire (1994). However, From Dusk Till Dawn brings the monster element back. Let’s dig in. (Contains spoilers.)

Quentin Tarantino’s Character

I love Tarantino movies, so the fact that he co-wrote and co-stared in From Dusk Till Dawn automatically wins in my book. But what makes this so special is his character, a horrifying human being with no soul.

Tarantino (Richie) and his brother (Seth), played by George Clooney, seek refuge in Mexico after committing a violent crime and take several hostages in the process.

From the opening scene, you realize Richie is insane and possibly a psychopath. He is paranoid, has no problem killing, and leers at every woman who crosses his path. And not in the ‘I hate women’ way but in the ‘I’m going to rape and kill you way’. You realize if his brother wasn’t supervising, Richie would be one of the most dangerous serial killers in the world.

I love this element because as you watch the movie, you never feel safe. You actually fear for poor Juliette Lewis (Kate) because you know they are one bathroom break away from a disaster. Tarantino plays a creepy murdering/rapist so well, he absolutely steals the spotlight from Clooney and Harvey Keitel and makes the audience very nervous through the first half of the movie.


Killers and crime aside, From Dusk Till Dawn is at its core a vampire movie. The group eventually makes it to Mexico and stops at late-night bar that’s rowdy and packed … packed full of vampires.

At first watch, you’re not sure where the movie is going because you know it’s not going to be that easy. Once they arrive, the audience can sit back, enjoy the music, get into the party atmosphere, and get lost in a very seductive dance by Salma Hayek. And then all hell breaks loose.

When the people change, these vamps are anything but pretty. They are vicious monsters that hunt and kill, and when it all goes down, you know they have been here a long, long time. I also enjoy that the audience can clearly see how Rodriguez and Tarantino pay homage to the lore and look of vampires. These monsters come in all shapes and sizes, and resemble bats, wolves, and zombies, all honoring some of the best things about the genre, makeup and costumes. Some are scary, some are funny, some are gross, and they all know how to do gore.

Scare Factor

Is From Dusk Till Dawn scary? Maybe to some. If being isolated in the Mexico desert with robbers, killers and vampires scares you, then yes. Vampire movies don’t scare me, but I find them very entertaining and they are some of my favorite horror movies to rewatch.

From Dusk Till Dawn is different because it’s also action-packed and funny (if you like Rodriguez and Tarantino humor) and makes sure the audience has a good time. You won’t have long intimate conversations about the vampire curse or romantic love twists. From Dusk Till Dawn keeps your heart racing and your tickle bone happy.

3 Favorite Teen Movies

Teen movies are my second favorite movie genre behind horror – especially good ones. They’re fun, funny, and make me feel a little younger. In good teen movies, there’s no crazy puke scene, and it’s not overly dramatic. There’s always a guy, and the rewatch value never diminishes. For this post, I focused on teen movies with strong male/female leads, instead of girl teen movies. All of us teen movie fans know there’s a difference.

Here are my picks for the top three teen movies:

She's All That
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She’s All That – Freddy Prince Jr., Rachel Leigh Cook, 1999

Zack (Prince) makes a bet that he can make Laney (Cook) prom queen, and of course it all blows up in his face.

Why it’s special: She’s All That is funny and has a ton of people in it, including Paul Walker and Dule Hill. Its plot feels a little generic (popular guy has to transform social outcast), but Laney plays a strong cynical, mature-for-her age teen who just wants to be a part of something. It has all the traditional things: mean girls, a-hole guys, and Usher as a school DJ (you had Usher as a DJ too, right?). The movie has its gross parts, like a nasty pizza scene in the cafeteria, but it doesn’t go overboard or feel cheesy. Some also scenes pay tribute to the show The Real World, which helped launch the reality TV show genre.

The soundtrack: One of the reasons Kiss Me by Sixpence None The Richer became so popular, and there’s a cool freestyle beat-box scene that I can site verbatim.

Extra: One reason I love Psych so much is many She’s All That cast members did a Psych episode or served as a major character. They must love the movie as much as I do!

10 Things I Hate About You
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10 Things I Hate About You – Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, 1999

Also the same year, 10 Things is a ’90s version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Patrick (Ledger) gets paid to take Kat (Stiles) out, and it the “sh$% hiteth the fan”.

Why it’s special: This is tough for me because 10 Things is much better written and has some of the wittiest dialogue I’ve ever heard. The acting is better, the story is stronger, and there are a ton of people in it as well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a big part, and Larisa Oleynik, who also did a Psych episode, plays a believable Bianca. What makes this movie is Patrick and Kat’s relationship; they have chemistry you seldom find in teen movies, and you assume they may be good friends in the “real” world.

The soundtrack: Opens with Joan Jett. Enough said.

Extra: If I were fairly reviewing this movie, this would be No. 1, but I had to judge it on how many times I’ve watched the movies as well. I’ve watched She’s All That several more times.

Can't Hardly Wait
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Can’t Hardly Wait – Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, 1998

Does it say something that all of these were in the late ’90s? This plot is about Preston (Embry) trying to win Amanda’s (Hewitt) affection one last time before everyone goes to college. There’s no money involved, and most of the movie occurs at a party.

Why it’s special: For a party movie, Can’t Hardly Wait is creative and feels a little more real. Instead of taking place at some ridiculously awesome school with a beachfront view (like the two others), its setting is a smaller town, and you never see the school. The acting isn’t awesome, but it’s good, and you believe Preston is desperate to tell her how he feels. Her girlfriends are typical teen girls (support you to your face, talk about you behind your back), and the movie includes all teen stereotypes, such as the dumb jock, geek squad, an angel stripper.

The soundtrack: The geek of the school performs Guns N’ Roses’ Paradise City. Any soundtrack with GnR automatically rocks.

Extra: Seth Green makes this movie. He’s a major/minor character and young, and if you’re a Green fan, you must see it.


Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below, and if you haven’t seen these teen gems, you should!

Remakes and Reboot Redux: Conclusion

I grew up reading Dark Horse Predator comics and Wizard Magazine. As I moved into other comics, I founds lots of characters to love, but one I always knew about but never read was Judge Dredd. I recognized the character, but didn’t know much beyond the iconic appearance until the last 5 years or so.

Judge Dredd (1995)

In the 90s the mega action stars of the 80s were looking for vehicles. As Sylvester Stallone’s biggest franchises, Rambo and Rocky shifted from classic to semi-farce (at least for a decade or so) Sly began looking for other franchises to be his next big thing. He tried it first with Demolition Man but went for a recognizable character film with 1995s Judge Dredd.

Since I didn’t know about the character at the time I admit I rather enjoyed the film. It went for a “big” story, introduces the world, the judges’ council, then immediately breaks into a story of a character trying to bring it down. It was still exciting, had great 90s special effects (love that bodyguard-bot), and good characters. Stallone made a great Dredd, he certainly had the look, and Diane Cannon was also effective as Judge Hershey.

It came out in the extended Lethal Weapon fallout when every character had to have a “buddy” comic relief aspect. They chose Rob Schneider to basically play himself and proves to be the weakest part of the film. The other aspect of it is Dredd sacrilege but is a direct result of the Stallone-vehicle reality of the movie. They show Dredd’s face. Constantly. Something the creators of the comic have consciously decided not to do (as he is the faceless embodiment of righteous but fascist judgment in Mega City).

It was a Judge movie but still a Stallone movie and also a 90s action movie. It was bright, colorful, and very much a product of the 90s comic movie industry, basic popcorn entertainment. Fun but tossable.

Dredd (2012)

After what a lot of fans consider to be mor Tinseltown than Mega City outing of 1995’s Judge Dredd 2012 brought a reboot in Dredd. With a faceless Karl Urban as the titular Judge, it made the gritty judge movie for the modern era. Films, even hero films, took a dark turn and Judge Dredd is perfect in a “dark” thematic world.

Karl Urban is excellent as Dredd. I didn’t even know it was him, and therefore accepted him more easily as the character. Olivia Thirlby is also fantastic as psychic Judge Anderson, a dynamic female character in modern action movies. Dredd doesn’t treat her like a woman, he treats her like a rookie. Only bringing up her gender when the possibility of capture by savage gangers is a possibility. Lena headey makes a for a sufficiently creepy villain as Ma-Ma and she’s surrounded by a circus of terrific character actors playing terrific characters.

One of the best aspects of the film is its “day-in-the-life” feel. It is a rousing action film, but in the end Dredd explains his miniature war in Peach Trees Mega block as “Drug bust. Perps were…uncooperative…” it looks great, is well-acted, and gives us a look at a different kind of comic character.

These movies show how these films are products of their time and both work very well. Essentially the 2012 Dredd ignores the previous version, but both were successful movies; the first a fun 90s-style action flick; the second a gritty, modern sci-fi crime movie.

Neither is overtly disrespectful of the origin material and the reboot classy-ly makes its own movie without deriding the original. So a viewer can watch 1995s Judge Dredd, enjoy the fun 90s glory of it; then watch Dredd and appreciate the millennium brutality of Mega City crime fighting.

That’s the current state of reboots and remakes in my opinion. Some are good, some are bad, but admittedly it’d be nice to see a brand new intellectual property out there… Til then… It’s Judgment Time Hollywood.  At least make more Apes and Dredds, and less Clash of the Titans and RoboCops

Blast from the Past: Actors Make Movie

We movie buffs talk a lot about casting. Was the movie cast well? Do the actors portray the characters well? And so on…

In Blast from the Past, the cast MADE the movie. Sure, it’s silly, funny, cute, and entertaining, but the actors made this movie much more than a story. Had other actors been in these roles, the movie would have flopped as so many have. The premise is a little out there, and if I had read the script, I don’t know if I would have thought it was a good idea, but these four characters made it work:

Christopher Walken – Is there anything more needed? It’s Christopher Walker. He plays a quirky, genius dad whose purpose is to protect his family. Walken plays a concerned dad who loves and trusts his family unconditionally. His character is just weird enough to not alarm audiences, and people can relate to his political views and paranoia. In fact, I’m sure many people in the 60s worried about the Cold War and bomb threats, and I know because I’ve talked with people from this era, and the threats were a real, terrifying thing. He’s a stereotypical “dominate” alpha male from the 60s, yet he has a soft spot for his family.

blast from the past parents

Sissy Spacek – Even though she’s a minor character in some ways, she symbolizes a lot. Spacek is one of my favorite characters because she represents the strong female. She becomes depressed and discontent after being locked away but still supports her family. She pushed Fraiser to go up to the surface to gather supplies and gauge how bad life really was (her husband had been up once already). She believes in fresh air, nature, and beauty. My favorite personality traits include questioning others’ decisions and providing for her family. She shows that a mom can cook, clean, teach her son to dance, and challenge authority and norms when needed – a much needed role model is today’s time.

Brenden Fraser – I believe Fraser has to play specific roles in order to be good. I’ve seen several of his movies, but he performs best when he’s portraying a dork. Blast from the Past and Bedazzled are two of my favorite Fraser movies, and in both he played very similar roles: oblivious, dorky, innocent, and complacent. In this movie, he enjoys the things we take for granted (the sky, ocean, rain, everyday miracles) and helps us remember that life is more than money and possessions – it’s about the little things. Not may actors can portray that genuine sense of innocence and traditionalism. He helps take the audience back to a different time when things were simple and meaningful.

blast from the past

Alicia Silverstone – Shallow, squealy, and gorgeous are my best words to describe her. Silverstone does an amazing job portraying a jaded, cynical woman who just wants to find “the one”. She’s a little crazy and doesn’t have her life together, but like so many, she’s not lost. She’s comfortable with who she is and uses it to her advantage. Her character complements Frasier’s well in that she’s the polar opposite, but they mesh well together. She teaches him about modern-day life, and he makes her appreciate the little things. Sometimes we need the person who makes us see things a different way.

I love this romcom for many reasons, but sometimes you have to give all the credit to the cast. I’m an individual fan of all of the above, so having them in one movie is a real treat. If you haven’t seen it or haven’t seen it in awhile, definitely check it out and pay attention to the little things we may overlook!

Urban Legend: Great 90s Teen Horror

Revenant Publications 90s banner

Maybe it’s age or the fact that being younger is most times easier, but I kind of miss the 90s. A good friend said recently that people were happier in the 90s, and looking back, I have to agree. Even as miserable as adults seemed back then, they didn’t seem as stressed out or tired.

With that said, I’ve subconsciously sunk into a 90s kick. First, it was Are You Afraid of the Dark, now it’s Clarissa Explains It All (review coming later), and tonight as I flipped channels, Urban Legend on TV. And this week’s post was decided.

Urban Legend (1998) is 90s teen horror at its finest. The writing, cast, soundtrack – this movie had it all. A serial killer knocks off teens based on urban legends, and every stereotype you can imagine is in this movie. There’s the douchey popular guy, the final girl, the college newspaper writer, etc. – even Robert Englund plays a professor! It may be my favorite teen horror movie.

Here are my top five reasons I love Urban Legend: (Contains Spoilers)

1. The killer: If you grew up in the 90s, you know the Noxzema chick, Rebecca Gayheart. That commercial was on all the time, and she was a classic 90s teen icon. Her big eyes and fluffy hair were almost unforgettable, especially when she went psycho crazy in the movie.

2. The writing: For a teen horror movie, the script is pretty well written, and there aren’t many bad one liners. When it is bad, it’s supposed to be. It never takes itself too seriously. My favorite line, “Don’t you want to be an urban legend? All your friends are now.”

3. Jared Leto: Any ladies around my age know what I’m talking about.

4. The soundtrack: I just noticed the soundtrack tonight as I listened to the movie. Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stabbing Westward, The Crystal Method, Rob Zombie, all signature 90s artists.

5. The kills: There’s blood, guts, and a lot of screaming. Because the kills are based on urban legends, it’s more entertaining than your traditional slasher movie. For example, there’s the girl who gets axed in her car, the guy who drinks Draino, and the date who gets hanged in the tree. I remember watching the guy on stage drink Poprocks and Coke, and I almost died. Sadly, he didn’t.

I admit I haven’t seen the sequels, so if you have any thoughts about them or recommend them, let us know! And for fun, check out the old Noxzema commercial 🙂

Freeway Review: Red Riding Hood Isn’t for Kids Anymore

What do you get when you cross an angry foul-mouthed teenager, a classic children’s tale, and a psychopath? Freeway.

In short, Freeway is a deliciously dark spin on Little Red Riding Hood. Vanessa Lutz (Reese Witherspoon) runs away from her dysfunctional home life to get to her grandmother’s house. Along the way, Bob Wolverton (Kiefer Sutherland) picks her up, and little does Vanessa know he is a serial killer. Sounds interesting, right?

I caught this movie on T.V. one day, and I realized after rewatching it this week, it’s my second-favorite movie of all time, following Pulp Fiction. It’s violent, controversial, and funny. So, if you think this is your kind of flick, here are my top five reasons why it’s a must-see and own.

1. Reese Witherspoon: You may know the star from films such as Legally Blonde and sequel, Walk the Line, and Sweet Home Alabama, but I guarantee you’ve never truly seen her talent until you see Freeway. She is ruthless. She will eff you up and never feel a shred of remorse. And that’s what makes her character so memorable.

2. Kiefer Sutherland: He is a great co-star and perfect complement to Witherspoon. He defines creepy. I still shiver at any close-up shots, and his character makes you uncomfortable. He is a perfect big bad wolf.

3. The stereotypes: This movie insults a lot of people. It takes stereotypes and amps them up to an ear shattering volume. You’ll see drug-addict parents, good/bad cops, rebellious teenagers, thugs, trophy wives, psychological professionals, inmates, and it slaps the court system in the face.

4. It’s controversial: This movie premiered in 1996, when several of these topics were making headlines, and some still do. This movie was not afraid to go there. Beware of offensive language, prostitution, murder, racist remarks/slang, child molestation, interracial relationships, and drug use. If you are easily offended, this movie is not for you.

5. Originality: I give five gold stars for a good premise. At a time when Snow White, Hansel and Gretel, and Jack and the Beanstalk have been CGId and “made dark”, Freeway is a refreshing reminder that Hollywood can make a good movie from a classic story without computer enhancements and popular stars (who were in other movies that made a profit). Major kudos to writer and director Matthew Bright.

These reasons mixed with a number of notable actors/actresses including the late Brittany Murphy, Brooke Shields, Bokeem Woodbine, Dan Hedaya, and Amanda Plummer, create a star-studded thriller you won’t forget.

Here’s a scene from the movie that contains spoilers and language. If you’ve seen the movie, I’d love to know what you think!