Prolonged exposure to Noxzema finally
catches up with Rebecca Gayheart.
After the mediocre From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, we were pleasantly surprised by the third film in this Quentin Tarantino-produced series of horror flicks. It is not so much a sequel as a prequel, and it has an altogether more imaginative approach to exploring the idea of a vampire bar on the edge of nowhere than its immediate predecessor did. While From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter hews much closer to the plot of the original than Texas Blood Money did, it has enough energy and atmosphere to stand out from the original and especially from the ever-growing pack of made-for-video horror films.
Taking center stage is the famous author and misanthrope Ambrose Bierce, who actually vanished in 1914. You may remember Bierce's work as the template for the short film Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, which many students, even today, are made to watch during an English class in high school. The film attempts to fictionally explain the disappearance of a very real man, while slipping in some literary irony where it can.
"I'm still not happy about that
whole Anaconda thing."
In a small town near the Mexican border, Bierce (the excellent Michael Parks, who played the ill-fated Texas Ranger in the original From Dusk Till Dawn) witnesses a failed attempt to hang a bandit named Madrid (Marco Leonardi). Aided by a mysterious sniper, Madrid makes his escape with Esmeralda (Ara Celi), the daughter of the sadistic hangman, in tow.
Meanwhile, Bierce and two newly married evangelists, John (Lennie Loftin) and Mary Newlie (Rebecca Gayheart), take a coach further into Mexico. In a particularly desolate area, Madrid's gang holds up the coach, and the three passengers are left in the desert. Abandoned and lost, they finally stumble upon an inn with the almost familiar name Titilla de Diablo.
If you've seen the original Dusk, you've probably guessed that this "inn" is the hideout of the gang of vampires who are the unifying theme of the series of films. The vamps lure unsuspecting travelers in with promises of booze and sex, only to drain them of blood later in the evening. You've probably also guessed that, by the film's end, all of the film's cast will end up at the inn, and by morning most of them will be dead. Heck, that's probably why you rented it.
Cher's legion of fans just get older and older.
Another reason you may want to rent FDTD3 would be the gore. While the splatter effects in this movie are not nearly as elaborate or as humorous as they were in the original film, there is plenty of graphic bloodshed. One of the coach drivers has a particularly sloppy death, which will probably result in many hockey jokes if you watch the film with the right kind of people.
Like From Dusk Till Dawn, the third installment harbors a cast and a script well beyond what it deserves. Written by Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi, Desperado) and his cousin, Alvaro, the story is captivating. Even when the events slow down, there's always something interesting happening on screen, and there are revelations that actually make sense when one contemplates the earlier story. We especially like that Hangman's Daughter almost makes explicit the relationship between Central American snake gods and the not-quite traditional vampires we've seen in these three films. Action films, especially those featuring vampires, aren't known for their unpredictable plot developments, so it's a pleasure to find one that shows us something we've never seen before.
"Some authors go on book signing tours, but I've
decided on a more aggressive approach for The Devil's Dictionary."
Even more pleasurable is the fact that the cast gives performances that do justice to the script. Parks' Bierce is more than just the folk hero he has been romanticized as; he is drunk, belligerent, and funny, which we suspect is closer to the truth. Rebecca Gayheart caught our attention with an outlandish performance once her holier-than-thou character turns vampire. (C'mon, you knew it had to happen.) We had some idea she was more than just a Noxzema girl with her turn in Urban Legend (which was otherwise entirely forgettable), but in this film the fresh-faced Gayheart was even more fun to watch.
We assume that there won't be any more sequels to From Dusk Till Dawn, and we're glad that the series went out on a positive note. Video store shelves are choked with both direct-to-video horror movies and their unneeded sequels (Sometimes They Come Back... For More, Retro Puppet Master, whatever godforsaken number the Howling series is up to), and quality movies are few and far between. From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter is one of them.