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From Dusk Till Dawn – Season One (Blu-ray Review)

From-Dusk-Til-Dawn-S1Robert Rodriguez’s episodic version of he and Quentin Tarantino’s classic From Dusk Till Dawn seems like it fulfills many trends going on in television at the moment.  Easily, it covers the fascination with vampires.  That’s a given.  And with that it also is another horror television show which is all the rage.  Thirdly, its taking a feature film and elongating it into a television series, attempting to enrich a familiar story with more patience, plot and character development.  It was the flagship program for Robert Rodriguez El Rey network that launched this year.  El Rey is a sort of network devoted to many things Grindhouse.  Or, the type of obscure or exploitation films that inspired and continue to fuel he and Quentin Tarantino’s film careers.  Seriously, watching commercials for some of the movies they air on the network just makes me want to sit and watch a lazy Saturday marathon of the cult classics they’re showing.  From Dusk Till Dawn the series definitely wants to fit into that mold.

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Season 

Our premise is basically identical to the feature film.  Seth and Richie Gecko have just pulled off a bank robbery and are on the run.  Further making them on the run is their stop at a convenience store that results in the death of a sheriff.  At their motel, they wind up crossing paths with the Fuller family.  This family is heading for the border.  The father is an ex minister with some dark secrets and may be taking his kids to Mexico against their will.  Seth is told by drug lord Don Carlos that they must rendezvous at a mysterious strip club called The Titty Twister.  Said strip club just so happens to be populated with vampires and sits on an ancient temple.  The rag tag bunch of opposites must band together along with a cop and a professor (aka Sex Machine) to survive the night.

I had modest expectations going in to From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series and it somewhat met them and somewhat didn’t at the same time.  The best I can say about the show is that it is ok.  The show features plenty of exploitation whether it be action, gore, sex and cursing.  Production values are just slightly on the cheaper side but it is well masked with some good competent filmmaking (Rodriguez directs 4 episodes and known genre directors like Fede Alvarez and Dwight Little also take the helm) to master it.

From Dusk Till Dawn‘s biggest enemy is its source material.  The show seems to think its the bible and is incredibly afraid to really stray from it and become its own sort of thing.  Yes, the show does incorporate new and more characters.  It also adds a deeper mythology to the supernatural elements of the story.  However, these things come in addition to the original story.  Every character and their fate almost seems pretty much the exact same as the film.  They take no liberties with any of it or surprise you with a twist and turn to keep you on your toes.  Even little details feel forced and hampered in like they have to.  Stuff like the running of the liquor down the Santanico’s leg into Richie’s mouth.  The events are the same, just filtered with more dialogue and slightly extra detail.    And none if it comes even close to the strength of the original film.

And with that comes our cast, which is a pretty much a lesser variation on what we had before.  There are some good actors abound in supporting roles like Wilmer Valderrama, Robert Patrick, Don Johnson and Adrianne Palicki.  Our leads, the Geckos are miles below George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino (and Tarantino’s not the world’s greatest actor).  They have a forced chemistry and feel like they’re trying too much to be their predecessors and not finding the characters for themselves.  DJ Cotrona sits and tries to say lines like George Clooney, using similar beats and measures instead of saying them for himself.  I don’t know how much of that is him and how much is Rodriguez.

Now, I know I’m being overly negative in my review.  Its not the worst show in the world, just a mediocre one with potential to be a greater one).  The show feels suffocated and too constrained to being the same exact thing as the original film that it really gives me no reason to recommend it over that film.  The show has some cool kills and groovy gore (when the CG doesn’t look extremely obvious), but I don’t know if that’s enough to warrant me suggesting you spend an extra 10 hours going to this version of the story.  However, Season 2 looks like its going to be its own thing and being unchained from the original story and allowed to breathe.  It could be telling.  If Season 2 becomes some really cool original adventures (as the final couple episodes were seemingly hinting at), then this first season will have been a neat little experiment and well worth the trip to get to the further seasons.

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Episodes

Pilot

Blood Runs Thick

Mistress

Let’s Get Ramblin’

Self-Contain

Place Of Dead Roads

Pandemonium

La Conquista

Boxman

The Take

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail:

Depth:  The image is purposely kind of worn and meant to look a tad vintage, but is overall sharp and pretty detailed.  Some of the digital effects look a little too clean and don’t match up to some of the live action, making them a bit obvious.  Medium and far shots seem to look a little bit smooth, but close ups are rich in detail.

Black Levels:  Blacks bring some issues, but overall are richly saturated and help to bring a sharper image.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are solid, accurate and lifelike.

Flesh Tones:  Consistent and yellow tinted (as is the show).  Close ups shows every bit of stubble, scuff or blemish present.

Noise/Artifacts:  Nothing present aside from super dark or really low lit sequences.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  This is a really fun and well thought out 5.1 track.  Especially so for a television show.  There’s a good sense of balance and blending of score, voice and effects.  Its an eventful track that puts you in the middle of the action.  All the aspects are set to perfect volumes and have plenty of impact.

Low Frequency Extension:  Gunshots, explosions, crashing and bashing and the roar of car engines light up the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  When we get halfway through the season and into the dance club, the speakers really start cooking.  There is plenty of playfulness and representation in all speakers to make it feel as if you’re right there in the club.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is clean and crisp.  Voices correspond perfectly to where the character lies on the screen.

From Dusk Til Dawn 3

Extras 

From Dusk Till Dawn comes with a slew of mostly short extras that appear on Disc 3.  The only extras present on the first two discs are commentaries.  This looks like a lot of extras, but what it amounts to is some commentaries with way too many people for a 40 minute episode, a bunch of TV commercials, a solid EPK Making Of and a full Q&A.

Disc 1

Commentary

  • Pilot – DJ Cotrona, Brandon Soo Hoo, Carlos Coto, Eliza Gonzalez, Jess Garcia, Robert Rodriguez, Zane Holtz
  • Blood Runs Thick – Carlos Coto, Diego Gutierrez

Disc 2

Commentary

  • Place Of Dead Roads – Alvaro Rodriguez, Carlos Coto, Dwight Little, Jesse Garcia
  • Pandemonium – DJ Cotrona, Brandon Soo Hoo, Carlos Coto, Eliza Gonzalez, Jesse Garcia, Robert Rodriguez, Wilmer Valderrama and Zane Holtz
  • La Conquista – Carlos Coto, Fede Alvarez, Marcel Rodriguez

Disc 3

Commentary

  • The Take – Alvaro Rodriguez, Carlos Coto, Jess Garcia, Robert Patrick and Zane Holtz

Full Length Trailer (HD, 2:02)

Best Kills Video (HD, 1:02)

On Set: Episode 1 Day 1 (HD, 2:02) – A brief little video of Robert Rodriguez directing on set.

On Set: The Making Of From Dusk Till Dawn (HD, 23:08) – A very promo friendly Making Of special for the El Rey network that provides informative interviews and behind the scenes footage.

Behind The Scenes “On Set: Brought To You By General Motors” (HD, 2:08) – Some more “automobile focused” behind the scenes/promo commercials.

Behind The Scenes “On Set: Brought To You By Dos Equis” (HD, :32) – An brief interview/commercial with Wilmer Valderrama.

Character Bio Featurettes (HD, 5:03) – Quick snippets/promos for the characters.

General Motors Commercial Featuring Seth Gecko (HD, 1:02)

Dos Equis Commercial Featuring Carlos Madrigal (HD, 1:02) 

What’s In The Briefcase Spot (HD, :22)

SXSW Featurette (HD, 1:02) – Basically another commercial

Q&A From Premiere At Alamo Drafthouse With Robert Rodriguez And Cast (HD, 33:59) – A full on Q&A recording of the Q&A.

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Summary 

From Dusk Till Dawn lies somewhere on the wheel of mediocrity.  There’s times where its just a lame imitation of the far superior feature film and then there’s moments where I feel like I’m watching some enjoyable trash (I mean this as a compliment).  I will say it does feel like Season 1 is sort of a “Let’s get this out of the way” type season and we’ll really see what this show is made of in its sophomore year.  This Blu-ray comes with a great audio and video presentation and a slew of extras that does contain some good material among the abundance of glorified advertisements passing as “behind the scenes” and the like.  If you’re a fan of the show, or like Rodriguez’s work, you should definitely pick this set up as its really nicely put together.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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