The Direct to Video Connoisseur
I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.
Sunday, September 8, 2013
From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (1999)
Back in 2008 I reviewed From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, and I was less than impressed. I guess because of that, when Netflix Instant became a thing, and this film showed up on it, I stuck it in my queue and forgot all about it. Now we're finally making it happen. Let's see if it was worth the wait.
From Dusk Till Dawn 3 has the great Michael Parks as Ambrose Bierce-- that's right, the writer. He's looking to meet up with Pancho Villa and join the Revolution. Along the way his carriage is waylaid by the outlaw Johnny Madrid and his gang, who are on the run from Temuera Morrison, the Hangman, whose daughter Esmeralda has run off with Madrid. Anyway, all of these people find themselves at a mysterious bar run by Danny Trejo, and the rest, as they say, is vampires.
This was definitely a far superior film to part 2. It was a great western, then a great horror film, yet retaining some semblance of being a western. Also, as a western, it played up on a lot of the savage elements of the Old West to give it enough of a horror tinge. Then we had some really great shots that felt more like a Terry Gilliam flick, which added a surreal effect, and made the film that much better. And there were great performances from Parks as Bierce, Marco Leonardi as Madrid, Morrison, and Trejo. I also liked Rebecca Gayheart as a travelling missionary whose new husband is using her for her money; Ara Celi as Esmeralda; and Jordana Spiro as a girl pretending to be a boy. There were a few scenes that didn't work for me, especially one where Gayheart's husband was fighting one of Madrid's gang. Gayheart's husband was a heel, I don't want to see him beating someone up, no matter who it is. Those scenes were fewer than the good ones though, and overall this one really worked.
Michael Parks is a big reason why. He's fantastic as Ambrose Bierce, total charismatic lead, exactly what you want when you see Michael Parks listed in the cast. Every scene he's in, he owns, but he owns it so effortlessly, almost in a way that's like he's lending it out to the other actors in the scene with him, but we're just waiting for him to reclaim ownership. At the same time, he's never trying to upstage anyone or overdo it, it's just a pure professional performance in a fun role and a fun movie.
As I said this Mexican Wild West was a little more macabre than the usual fare, which gave it more of a horror feel, even when there wasn't any actual horror in the scenes. Very bloody and deadly, but also nice touches like the hangman's clothing, and the scene around the hanging; or the coach drivers, one of whom has had his tongue cut out, the other who's blind. Very creepy old scary movie kind of things. The horror when it does come is as gross and gooey as it gets, it pulls no punches. It's an all out vampire feeding frenzy. I think that will appease the horror fans enough who have to wait until the end for that vampire action.
Johnny Madrid was played by Marco Leonardi, who was in one of my favorite films of the '80s, Cinema Paradiso. To see him as a gunslinging Mexican outlaw in this was quite a trip, but he was so great. He had every element of the character down, from his savagery and lawlessness, to his sense of honor and right that seem to conflict with the previous two traits. Then he had the gun wielding charisma you want from that role, which brought it all together. Leonardi is definitely not an actor I would've expected to see here at the DTVC, but as we've seen in our over 900 posts, you never know who's gonna show up.
I want to talk quickly about the cinematography, because it did have an almost Terry Gilliam like feel to it. Those carnivalesque close-ups and pan-outs, moving camera, wide shots of people wandering through a desert that looks more like a Dali painting. I don't know how many times I've seen people try to pull these things off and ruin the whole film, but here it worked. I think it helped too to have Parks, whose portrayal of Bierce felt like something out of a Gilliam flick too. It added a lot of atmosphere, and kept reminding us that things weren't what they seemed.
While this is on Instant, it's worth a look. For Parks alone it's worth a look, but everything else seemed to click too. Again, it had a few missteps, but those missteps didn't hurt it enough to prevent me from giving it a positive recommendation.
For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120695/