When El Rey launched in 2013 it didn’t have much to offer in terms of quality entertainment. The Network’s, self-proclaimed, grind house style was riddled with oh-so-predictable twists and cliché plots that were borderline insulting to its targeted Latino audience. Despite my personal gripes with the network, they somehow managed to pull off an adaptation of the 1996 cult classic, From Dusk Till Dawn, that is actually really entertaining in a couple of unexpected ways.
Its Pays Tribute to its Origins
Most made for TV movie adaptations always try to either pick up the series after the events of the film or just push the reset button and create their own spin, which drastically sets the series apart from the source material. From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series went a different direction. The entirety of its 10 hour first season was written to pay homage to the movie. It takes the film’s hour and 48 minute story, and stretches it. Rather than taking anything away from the movie, they added more detail, background, characters, sub plots and surprisingly manage to pull it off. Only minimal changes are made to the character arcs of the show’s protagonists, the Gecko brothers, and Santanico, the vampire queen for the purposes of propelling the series into its next season. Cult classics are a funny thing where the population of viewers who enjoyed it are relatively small to what we consider to be blockbusters, but are typically far more passionate about the material and really appreciate when adaptations of their favorite films set out to add rather than take away. In this way, the series is fantastic and my hat goes off to El Rey.
Sex is Implied but Still Lots of Gore
One of the reasons the movie wasn’t more popular was because of its in-your-face-full-frontal nudity and outlandishly gory scenes featuring exploding heads and disembowelments. The movie seemed more like a Quentin Tarantino soft porn than an actual film to many viewers, but its was the movie’s gore and nudity that also garnered a lot of attention due to the shear audacity of its production team. Learning how to wash out some of those issues for public consumption couldn’t have been easy, but the show does it by complimenting a scene where the gorgeous Eiza Gonzalez teases the audience with her perfect body by then having someone get their head chopped off, followed up by a moment of perfectly timed dark humor. This sex, gore, laughs cycle is pretty consistent throughout the series and keeps the show sexually charged without ever having to show the goods and keeping the overall content appropriate for a teenage audience.
This is my personal favorite reason for watching these hour long gore fests during their 10 episode seasons. Living in the Western world means we are constantly bombarded with Greek myth in all of our creative content. Whether the material is dealing with Greek myths directly or using the heroic formula present in the stories of Perseus of Hercules, it all seems vaguely familiar to television and movie lovers. Over the last decade, a lot of fantasy television has pulled from Nordic and Gypsy myths to change things up, but the intertwined nature of European beliefs over thousands of years of contact, still makes a lot of what we are presented with familiar. From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series breaks the mold in this regard. The entirety of its vampire mythology is based on Mesoamerican myths of what Westerners might call Were-Snakes, Culebras. It deals with the afterlives and hell dimensions of Mayan and Aztec legends and really immerses its viewers in the ancient religious practices of the Mesoamerican people who believed if they stopped offering human sacrifices, the world would end. By the time you get to the third season, you’ll be pausing the show every five minutes to google the next interesting bit of non-Western myth, such as Amaru, Jaguar Warriors and a host of other equally dark and interesting practices the series will introduce you to.
Despite the show’s critics, I think it is genuinely entertaining and worth watching. The first two seasons are streaming on Netflix and the third is currently airing, so enjoy.