From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series Review: “Episode 1.01” (Season 1, Episode 1) [SXSW 2014]

from dusk till dawn

Was From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, Robert Rodriguez’s ambitious TV adaptation of his iconic 1996 collaboration with Quentin Tarantino, a really bad idea? It’s too early to tell. Though the show’s pilot, which covers just the film’s opening scenes in a Texas liquor store where bank robbers Seth and Richie Gecko (D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz, respectively) stop on their way down to Mexico, is tense and enjoyable, it’s how From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series handles all the madness down the road at the vampire-populated Titty Twister that will determine whether or not Rodriguez had a good reason to return to the Gecko brothers.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there are vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. Although someone watching the pilot with completely fresh eyes might not know going in that the supernatural creatures play a huge role in the overall story, even those who are newcomers are going to pick up on some early teasers.

For one, the show starts with a girl being chased through a jungle by three Aztec warriors. Once captured, she’s tossed into a pit full of snakes, which quickly descend upon her, biting and slithering. It’s a thoroughly nasty image, and one that suggests From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series could have some delicious scares in store. Another tease comes courtesy of the noticeably unhinged Richie, who sometimes sees a seductive vampiress in the place of the beautiful young hostage (Eiza González) the brothers take at the liquor store. There’s a more pronounced supernatural edge to the show than the film ever had, which could be a great thing if Rodriguez and co. take the time to properly flesh out the extensive Aztec mythology that the original film merely hinted at.

Until the Gecko brothers arrive at the Titty Twister, I have a feeling that teases are all we’ll be getting. Still, the pilot does work as an introduction to the main players. Seth is the brains of the operation, logical and coolheaded. Cotrona does a fine job of making us root for him, instantly establishing a charismatic screen presence. The actor also has great chemistry with Holtz, who has a much trickier character to play. It’s clear from the show’s opening minutes that there’s something very wrong with Richie – he’s sociopathic and prone to vivid hallucinations – and Holtz perfectly captures his unhinged, mad-dog intensity. I’m looking forward to watching their relationship, already unstable by the end of the pilot, unfold throughout the series.