JUNE 22, 2009
Dear PJ Pesce,
Stop making direct to video sequels to beloved vampire movies. While From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman’s Daughter has its moments (unlike Lost Boys 2: The Tribe, which had none), it’s still a pretty lame movie, and drags down the reputation of the awesome original. It’s clear that you’re a pretty lousy filmmaker, so if you could stick to making your own films outside of franchises, that would be great. Thanks!
And now on with the review!
I can’t remember much of the 2nd film anymore (Texas Blood Money), but I do recall that its connection to the original was rather flimsy. That is not the case with Hangman’s Daughter; not only does the ending take place in what will eventually be the Titty Twister, it also features the origin (sort of) of Santanico Pandemonium, albeit played by someone that isn’t quite as “Holy fucking shit!” hot as Salma Hayek was in the first film (if Edward Cullen is the alpha and omega for women who wish to be bitten by a vampire, than Santanico Pandemonium (pre-snake head version) is his female equal).
The problem is, they also try to match the original’s structure, in that you don’t know it’s a vampire movie until halfway through. Well, this is a sequel (or prequel, whatever), so I think anyone sitting down for it knows it’s a vampire movie. So keeping vampires out of it for a solid HOUR is just unforgivable. Hell, that’s even longer than it took for the first one to turn into a horror movie, which was also a longer film to boot. If the first one was like 60/40 in favor of vampires, this one is more like 70/30 in favor of criminals being bad but not so bad that you can’t justify rooting for them.
And that’s the other thing - why retain the same sort of “we all have a reason to hate each other but we have to band together against the vampires” thing and not even really follow through with it? The cool thing about the first one is that eventually, Clooney is a full on hero, protecting Juliette Lewis’ character. Here, they never really call a truce with one another; even when the vampires are attacking, the hangman is still trying to kick the hero guy’s ass. It makes the vampires feel like a non-threatening afterthought.
Also botching what little potential the film had is the abhorrent editing. So many moments fall completely flat because it seems like the revealing shot was taken away. At one point Michael Parks’ character says “Let’s get out of here!” and heads for the door, and then in the next shot everyone is surrounded by vampires. Huh? This is something that occurs almost every single time a horror or action element is introduced into a scene, to the point where I wondered if I was watching the airline version of the movie or something.
However, if you actually look at it as an action movie, it’s not TOO bad. The opening bit is like a lost sequence from one of Robert Rodriguez’s Desperado films (indeed, RR is credited with this film’s story), featuring some cool, physics-be-damned stunts and nice gunplay. There’s also a pretty rollicking wagon heist a bit later, marred only by the inclusion of Rebecca Gayheart, one of the most boring actresses of her generation (good thing she turned to crack...whatever keeps her out of movies). Luckily she’s one of the first to die, but that’s about 45 minutes later.
Also, the movie takes the bold step of trying to explain what happened to author Ambrose Bierce, who disappeared without a trace while traveling Mexico in 1914. Parks plays Bierce (and thus presumably NOT an ancestor of his character from the first film), and according to this movie, the reason he disappeared is because he fought a bunch of vampires and then rode off into the sunset with a thief and murderer. I’ll buy it. Of course, I find the notion of people that disappear and don’t leave a single trace behind to be very creepy, so I am a bit disappointed that they couldn’t have gone with something a bit more “horror” themed (like, I dunno, a goddamn vampire ate him). If you’re going to piss on someone’s legacy, go all out!
The DVD’s sole extra is a deleted scene (really an alternate ending), and they needn’t have bothered even with that much, though it does sort of tie into my “I wish a vampire ate him” idea. Dimension actually gave the film an anamorphic transfer (one of the very few in their late 90s/early 00s output), something the original film still hasn’t even gotten in Region 1. But like just about all of the Disney releases pre-high def mastering, anamorphic or not, the transfer is fucking shit. There’s no detail on anyone’s faces, backgrounds might as well be watercolors, and the sound is rather flat. Other older DVDs hold up well in the age of upscaling and Blu-ray, so I’m not sure why Disney (which includes Dimension, Miramax, Touchstone, and Hollywood, among others) always looked so lousy. It’s clear enough to see the strings on some of the bats though, so there’s something.
What say you?