The direct-to-video movie, From Dusk til Dawn 3 is the third installment in the From Dusk til Dawn (heretofore known as FDTD) franchise. The original film was written by and co-starred Quentin Tarantino as one part of a bank-robbing duo that flees to Mexico to avoid Johnny Law, only to enter a den full of predatory vampires. In what is probably the biggest mistake for the film’s producers, all (and I mean, all) the vampires were killed off in the original. This makes the rationale for a sequel quite difficult. The first sequel, FDTD: Texas Blood Money, went back in time a few years before the events of FDTD in order to justify the vampires’ return appearance, but FDTD 3 goes all the way back to the Old West via the trend-of-the-decade — a prequel.
FDTD 3 takes place in Mexico, where dashing outlaw Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi) is about to be hang for his crimes when he’s suddenly rescued by an American outlaw-wannabe name Reece, who turns out to be a girl. Before he escapes, Madrid snatches up Esmeralda (Ara Celi), the daughter of the Hangman himself. After meeting up with his band of merry outlaws, Madrid, Reese, and Esmeralda robs a stagecoach that has noted American writer, and now expatriate, Ambrose Bierce inside, along with prudish bible thumper Mary (Rebecca Gayheart) and her husband John. After the robbery, Madrid and his men find themselves at an out-of-the-way drinking pub/hotel, which is also the same place Ambrose and the bible thumpers, as well as the Hangman and a small army of Mexican Federalis on the hunt for Madrid, also end up. Before the proverbial s— gets a chance to hit the fan, the establishment’s dancers and owners turn out to be vampires, and it’s dinnertime!
The FDTD franchise has a certain set of rules that it follows. One: either all, or half, of its protagonists are outlaws, or some sort of criminal element. They’re bad men, but not that bad, since they have to be likeable enough for you to root for them when the vampires start munching on flesh. Two: the film is split into two distinctively different genres, with one being Vampires Attack in the film’s second half. In FDTD, it was a Guys on the Run, and in FDTD 2 it was a Heist film. FDTD 3 goes back to Guys on the Run for its first half.
Actually, FDTD 3 takes its cue closely from the original, and is almost a carbon copy of the original in narrative structure. The movie’s first hour is devoid of any supernatural elements and is instead a pure Western, complete with every Western cliché you can think of, including shootouts, saved-at-the-last-second-from-a-hanging scenes, and stagecoach hold-ups. The movie’s Vampires Attack elements don’t show up until the 55-minute mark. When the vampires do rear their ugly heads, the blood flows freely, body parts are ripped to shreds by the dozens, and there is a lot of staking, biting, and shooting going on. Like the original, FDTD 3’s antagonistic protagonists are forced to team up in order to survive. It’s uncanny how similar this sequel is to the original; so much so that I was surprised the writing credits only went to Alvaro Rodriguez and Robert Rodriguez. I think someone owes Tarantino an apology!
P.J. Pesce directs FDTD 3 much the same way Robert Rodriguez directed FDTD. The film is very stylish, but that doesn’t stop its action from looking amateurish and disjointed from time to time. Rodriguez, for all his reputation, remains a “fake” action director in my eyes, because his action scenes never really flow correctly into each other or have any semblance of coherence. The gun battles in FDTD 3 go on forever, and are choppy and unpolished. Like every movie where a character has to battle a supernatural element with firearms, the characters in FDTD 3 never seem to run out of bullets until it’s their turn to get killed off.
The special effects on FDTD 3 are a little lacking, but then again the sfx in the past two installments weren’t exactly Oscar winning caliber either. In fact, the franchise’s special effects have always been a little suspect. The cgi usage is minimal and the filmmakers were content to go with prosthetics and heavy makeup most of the time. (I wonder if they get discount on those fake blood because they sure used enough of it.) The bats look fake, like puppets being dangled from the ceiling on strings (which they probably were), and the cgi bats are too obviously cgi.
The only notable in the acting department is Michael Parks as Bierce, the expatriate writer who has come to Mexico to join up with Poncho Villa. Parks plays his character as a drunk with a sense of humor and a persistent right hook. Marco Leonardi (Madrid) lacks charisma and comes across as flat. Ara Celi, who steps into the role that Salma Hayek would later play in FDTD, is supposed to be Mexican, but completely forgets her accent about 20 minutes into the film. The only other interesting person in the film is Lennie Loftin, who plays John, Rebecca Gayheart’s con artist husband, who tosses his bible and vows away for a knife and a pair of breasts as soon as his wife refuses him sex one too many times. Thata boy!
Overall, FDTD 3 is more of the same. If you had a good time with the franchise’s other installments, and want more of the same gore and lots of it, then this movie is for you. Those who would rather avoid these type of movies should, well, avoid these type of movies.
P.J. Pesce (director) / Ãlvaro RodrÃguez, Robert Rodriguez (screenplay)
CAST: Marco Leonardi …. Johnny Madrid
Michael Parks …. Ambrose Bierce
Temuera Morrison …. The Hangman
Rebecca Gayheart …. Mary Newlie
Ara Celi …. Esmeralda