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O. C. LIVE | KIDS ON FILM

Bloodshed Pumps Up Erratic Pulse of 'From Dusk Till Dawn'

February 01, 1996|LYNN SMITH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Burning bodies! Decapitation of demons! Weird weaponry! Sleazy topless dancers who morph into undead cannibals! Lots of words you'd get in trouble for if you said them in class!

A formula movie for 14-year-old boys!

But while three friends from Mission Viejo--Hadi Nematollah, Stephen Francis and Brad Gourdin, all 14--agreed the movie is bloody enough, they gave it mixed reviews.

At best, it's not boring, said Hadi. "There was a lot of stuff happening. They robbed a bank; they blew up a gas station. They don't stop and talk for, like, hours about what they're going to do. It just, like, happens. It tunes you in."

Plus, he thought it was funny.

Bordering on camp satire, "From Dusk Till Dawn" mixes a plot from a '50s horror movie with special effects, the aforementioned raunchy language and a '90s soundtrack.

The Gecko brothers spend the first half of the story in Texas in murderous flight from a bank robbery.

As TV newscasters keep a tally of the bodies, they pick up a family of hostages: Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel), a Baptist pastor in spiritual crisis; his daughter Kate (Juliette Lewis), and his adopted son Scott (Ernest Liu).

The movie picks up about halfway through, the boys agreed, after the party crosses the border and settles into the topless bar, where suddenly dancers and patrons turn into goulish predators.

After that, it's one gross-out monster attack after another, a favorite being the birth of a bloody wolf vampire from the decapitated body of a human vampire.

Luckily, the victims have seen enough movies to know they can defend themselves with holy water and by ramming stakes through the vampires' hearts.

At worst, the movie has no meaning, Brad said. "It was kind of pointless. I mean, like, just killing vampires."

In the midst of the gory free-for-all, the pastor and Seth Gecko (Clooney) undergo spiritual renewal, but by that point the plot has been overwhelmed by exploding heads and legless corpses.

Stephen said he expected the movie to be better than it was. Nevertheless, "It was still cool."

While the barroom nudity and hyperviolence are mostly cartoonish, they are tinged with the misogyny of the genre. Richard Gecko is a geeky rapist who kills one of his victims and lusts after teenage Kate. When a vampire tells Seth he will become her slave, he jokes: "No thanks, I already had a wife."

Adolescents, of course, aren't the only ones who get sucked in by any new variation of the macho commercial formula. Observed Hadi: "I could hear a lot of adults laughing and cracking up."

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