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From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1999)
Saying that From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (TBM) pales in comparison to the original From Dusk Till Dawn (FDTD) might be a bit unfair. FDTD had a script by Quentin Tarantino, direction by Robert Rodriguez, special effects assistance from Tom Savini, and such acting luminaries as George Clooney, Juliette Lewis and Harvey Keitel. Even if FDTD had been only that crew filming that cast reading the phone book, complete with Tarantino commentary in between the Employment Agency and Escort Services ads, it would be hard to beat.
But TBM is a good film. It does have its share of problems, but genre fans' extreme exaggeration of perspective when comparing this film with its predecessor doesn't do TBM justice. Aside from that exaggeration, TBM just might have earned a reputation as a bit of a quirky, quasi-cheesy horror classic.
Let's get what I'll tell you of the plot out of the way so that I can get to the more interesting stuff. Not that the plot isn't interesting, but there are a number of peculiarities about TBM that give it a odd, hold-up-your-sore-thumb-with-the-pretty-black-and-blue-colors edge over similar films.
Just like FDTD, TBM opens with the story of a recently escaped convict trying to evade law enforcement in a southern town. Well, that's not actually the opening scene, but the opening scene is one of the quirks, so I'll get back to that in a minute. The convict, Luther (Duane Whitaker, a bit of a genre film veteran, having done a Texas Chainsaw Massacre film, a Puppet Master film, Pulp Fiction, Tales from the Hood and more), contacts his buddy, Buck (Robert Patrick, another genre veteran, probably best known for his role as the Terminator 2 policeman), to arrange a Mexican bank robbery worth an estimated $5 million. We see Buck round up the usual gang of idiots, misfits and psychos to help with the robbery, and as a FDTD film must do, they head to Mexico and encounter vampires--which is no spoiler (although it should be) by now to anyone who has heard about this particular horror series.
Now some people might criticize the plot similarities between TBM and FDTD as a lack of originality marring an inferior script. I do agree that the script is inferior, but only because Tarantino is such a masterful scriptwriter. I disagree that the plot similarities are flaws. In a film that's at least a conceptual continuation of a series, TBM scripters Scott Spiegel and Boaz Yakin solve the problem at hand with one of the more interesting possible solutions given that almost none of the FDTD actors returned, so there's no literal continuation of the story with the same characters. Instead, Spiegel and Yakin set TBM in a kind of parallel universe where this is another possible instantiation of a similar tale. The similarities are continuity--they're what make TBM a FDTD film. That's not a flaw.
But back to those interesting quirks. The first is the opening sequence. Pam and Barry are defense lawyers discussing the case of a mass murderer they are representing. They step into an elevator and head to a top floor, but it stops. Barry opens the hatch on the roof of the elevator and a dead maintenance guard drops through. Then, hundreds of bats come barreling down the elevator shaft and Pam and Barry are goners. It has nothing to do with the rest of the film really (except for the comic book-style action and pleasant caricatures)--in fact, the scene is a movie that Buck was watching on television. We're only given that information discreetly, though, and if you turn your head for a minute, you'll miss this fact and perhaps be confused. It's a clever curveball, and it's a bit of a gift to genre fans, as Barry is played by Bruce Campbell, of Evil Dead fame (and Pam is the oddly beautiful Tiffany-Amber Thiessen). TBM director Spiegel co-wrote Evil Dead II with Sam Raimi, a fact that is important in contextualizing this film and differentiating it from FDTD.
Not that FDTD was deathly serious, but TBM is even goofier. The silliest factor is a never-ending supply of crazy point-of-view shots. We see views from the head of a character who is moving up and down while doing push-ups, views from the inside of vampire's mouths as they bite their victims, views from the top of a rotating fan, views from puddles of blood, views from the dial of a safe as it turns, etc. I'm sure some fans think these point-of-view shots are too over the top, but I enjoyed them. My only complaint is that they didn't do more--it's perhaps a lack of confidence of Spiegel's part. In my opinion, he should have exaggerated the bizarre, funny qualities of TBM, as Raimi did in Evil Dead II. There's a bit of it here, but this film can't rise to the excellence of that masterpiece, either.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money isn't a bad film at all. Then again, it isn't something that Tarantino-exclusive fans should seek out, because TBM has nothing to do with him except superficially. Instead, horror fans with a taste for the absurd, who think that blood puddle p.o.v. shots sound cool, who'd like to see a literal bloodbath, and who love films like Evil Dead II should check this one out -- just don't expect a genre classic.