From Dusk Till Dawn Screenplay Foreward by Clive Barker…

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Here’s an interesting find I came across while looking through some old books to sell at a local flea market. I’d totally forgtotten that Clive had written a very nice forward to this softcover screenplay edition of From Dusk Till Dawn written by popular cult filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. I thought I’d write it up for the fans so they can read it:

A true vampire is, at its cold heart, indiscriminate. It goes where its needs take it, the necks of the high-born and the show deemed equally valuable. As long as there’s a pulse, they’re to the purpose. Little wonder then that the vampire has experienced a return to favour: It shares with our culture the instinct of the scavenger. Impurity is the mode of the moment; we seek out and celebrate art that revels in its own promiscuity, taking vigour from from whatever veins the artist lays his or her hungry eye upon.

All of which makes Quentin Tarantino fit for induction into the league of the living dead at his earliest convenience, for there’s surely nobody working in the heat of the popular gaze who has so successfully shed, mingled, and prospered upon blood from such a variety of sources. In his neo-noirs, Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, and Pulp Fiction, low comedy, high melodrama, hip tunes, and mesmeric violence are fused by the sheer force of his storytelling, his characters as addicted to the ephemeral pleasures of a hamburger or their own chatter as their creator. It’s an infectious delight. Once bitten, we’re laughing along with Quentin’s happy monsters as they taunt, torment, and slaughter one another.  

From Dusk Till Dawn opens in the same terrain: a place where violence is arbitrary and cruelty more likely to evoke guilty laughter than censure. But the road trip Quentin’s characters (good,bad,confused, and simply crazy) undertake soon leads them astray, and halfway through the movie Quentin the screenwriter, Quentin the actor, and director Robert Rodriguez get to play a very different set of variations. The thriller grows fangs, the bullets are passed over in favour of holy water, and we’re in the midst of a high-octane vampire flick. 

This is not, need I say, the fin de siecle world conjured by a sensualist like Anne Rice, in which the melancholy undead brood and swoon in one another’s arms. Tarantino and Rodriquez have created a nest of banshee vampires stripped of poetry or doubt. Nor do they seem to be an endangered species. They swarm over the screen in screeching waves of virulent appetite, their horde thinned only at terrible cost to our dubious heroes. 

Rodriguez stages these action scenes in hip, comedic style, the moodier, more realistic tone of the first half of the picture abandoned as the body count grows and the rules of combat become more rococo. If we were disturbed by some of the earlier passages, it was because they had some connection to the context of the Six O’Clock News, but once the dance of the vampires begins the carnage becomes so excessive that the grimmest moments seem playful, driven by a mixture of gags and gore that recalls Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead Series.  

That’s not the only point of reference, of course. This is a vampire flick made by men who know the horror tradition. Peter Cushing, Hammer’s great star and (for me, at least) the definitive Van Helsing, gets a nod, so-in the sheer relentlessness of the enemy-do Romero’s zombie films, along with pictures by Carpenter and Polanski. There are a host of incidental pleasures besides the grue: a parade of skin-flick sex goddesses, a list speech as sleazy as it is exhaustive, a plethora of state-of-the-screen transformations and resurrections. There’s also a complete disregard for the conventional niceties of who survives and who goes down spurting. In truth, it’s hard to know which side truly wins the night, but who’s counting?

All of this is too much chaotic fun to be frightening, of course. The film doesn’t have the patience for anxiety or dread: It wants blood. The spirit of Dracula-urbane, discreet, and chilly-has no place at the party Tarantino and Rodriguez are throwing. It’s an all-nighter for the vampire babes and their bat-brute lovers; Dracula’s Old World manners would be absurdly out of place. 

He might be more than a little envious too, seeing Tarantino unapologetically supping from whatever vein suits him. It’s a lesson in the modern method, and while the age applauds Quentin, Dracula will have to to sulk in his grave awhile. The title of the Vampire King is somebody else’s for the night. 



Hallowe’en 1995