Rebel director Robert Rodriguez made one big step forward this year, and launched his own cable TV network El Rey. Rodriguez asked that his audience ‘ride with El Rey’ and made his vision for the network very clear: ‘content is king, so El Rey is going to be the king of content’, and he’s definitely succeeding. Specialising in grindhouse cinema, classic TV re-runs and innovative insider Hollywood interviews with some of the town’s most legendary directors (all of whom are close personal friends of Rodriguez), El Rey also made the move into producing original content, and its first series was a return for Rodriguez as he adapted his cult classic crime vampire movie From Dusk Till Dawn into a 10-episode ongoing series.
After a bank robbery gone bad, wanted outlaws Seth Gecko (D.J. Cotrona), and his violent, unpredictable brother Richie Gecko (Zane Holtz) make a desperate dash for the Mexican border, and the freedom that is waiting for them there. Hot on their heels is dogged Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia), who is pursuing the brothers after they left his mentor, Texas Ranger Earl McGraw (Don Johnson), dead. Knowing that they have few options, the Gecko’s kidnap former minster Jacob Fuller (Robert Patrick) and his two children, Katie (Madison Davenport), and Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo), and commandeer their vehicle with a quest to reach the notorious Tittie Twister strip club. But nothing is what it seems, and the Geckos, the Fullers, and Ranger Gonzalez are in for more than they bargained for with this den of horrors.
Rodriguez makes an awesome break for originality and surprise with From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. Staying true to his original film he mixes south of the border crime action, with spooky and horrific vampire horror. Rodriguez has taken the plot of his original series, and expands upon it with greater detail and character developments. It’s fascinating to see scenes turned into entire 45 minute episodes. The action and pacing is never drawn out, and Rodriguez is able to build upon this very rich world that he helped bring to life back in 1996.
The casting is pitch perfect for the series with a group of hot new talent taking to the screen, cemented with some absolute cult legends. Front and center and full of antihero bravado is D.J. Cotrona as series bad boy Seth Gecko, a reckless outlaw thief who is completely cool under tense situations, but is clearly out for himself. Cotrona was absolutely perfect for Seth, handling his criminal strut and swagger, along with being fairly capable with his own personal hand cannon revolver. Cotrona also balances out Seth’s criminal mind and behaviour, with a slightly flawed, but still present code of honor. Seth’s only flaw comes in his loyalty for his disturbed and psychotic younger brother Richie Gecko, played by the exceptionally talented Zane Holtz. Holtz is the series breakout character, and is an absolute scene-stealer. He channels the intensity of a young Michael Shannon, and he’s one to seriously keep an eye on. His Richie can flip from functioning to psychotic in a second, and it’s very scary to watch.
Pursuing the Geckos is dogged Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez played by Jesse Garcia. Again he’s one to watch, and can stand toe to toe with the Geckos as well as with the legendary Don Johnson as his mentor and partner, Texas Ranger Earl McGraw. Stuck in the middle of the Gecko’s path of chaos is the distraught and traumatised Fuller family. Madison Davenport and Brandon Soo Hoo play siblings Katie and Scott, and both of these young talents are extremely good. Davenport is pretty incredible to watch as she is pretty much the series female lead, and we can report that she’s very, very good as the young Christian girl who is desperately trying to find meaning in her life following tragedy. Their father, the distraught, and alcoholic former paster Jacob Fuller is played by cult legend himself Robert Patrick. His presence is the series is awesome to watch, and he lends it credibility and reassurance, he’d great to watch as the everyman who has to rise above his failings to protect his family.
But while none of these characters might like the idea of being together, they’re going to have to try if they are going to survive the deadly Santanico Pandemonium played by the gorgeous Eiza Gonzalez, and her loyal henchman and cartel boss Carlos Madrigal, played by Wilmar Valderrama. Gonzalez is again perfectly cast as Santanico (Rodriguez really does have an eye for talent), and she does a great job of measuring up to Salma Hayek’s original performance, while still making Santanico her own. This blood goddess is one bad girl, and her sexual magnetism and ferocious hunger only adds to her appeal. While it would be easy to just see her become another femme fatale, Gonzalez really has presence as a performer and layers her with depth, and did we mention that she is absolutely gorgeous? Valderrama also gets to change gears and step into the guise of a villain this time around, and from the glee in his performance, it’s easy to see that he’s relishing his new character.
From Dusk Till Dawn also plays with the mythologies of the series vampires as well. Taking cues from Aztec and Mayan cultures, the filmmakers have created a layered, and very creepy new vampire species, which have more to do with snake cults than they do with bats. This new mythology definitely injects the series full of venom, and its bite will have you hooked.
The series storytelling is consistent, and while some audiences may have an understanding of the eventual end, they’ll have no clue how they get there. Rodriguez keeps things nice and loose, and leaves the series on a high. Fans will also rejoice knowing the fact that the Geckos and Santanica will be returning for a second season.
From Dusk Till Dawn is a tremendously original and daring new series which does not pander to convention or expectation, and instead makes a move to mix things up. So be cool, and get rambling ramblers because you need to check out a series that has serious bite to it.
From Dusk Till Dawn is now available to stream on Netflix.