The first script that Quentin Tarantino was paid to write, back in 1990 — for the tidy sum of $1,500 — has been dusted down and spruced up with Desperado director Robert Rodriguez at the helm, a biggish budget and a high profile cast lead by the latest superstar-in-waiting, ER’s George Clooney. Swelled from its obvious B-movie origins to must-see status thanks to Tarantino’s near messiah-like standing (even after Four Rooms) and Rodriguez’s impeccable action movie credentials, and featuring the Quentmeister in his first, proper acting gig, this funky fusion that is two-thirds guns’n’muthafuckas and one-third vampires’n’gore is a real (blood)blast, a rollicking, slam-bang piece of entertainment that goes for the jugular and the funny bone.
Seth and Richie Gecko (Clooney and Tarantino, decked out in Reservoir Dogs garb) are criminal brothers on the lam, heading for Mexico after a prison breakout with a bag full of moolah and the entire Texas law enforcement community on their tail, having left numerous bullet-riddled corpses in their bloody wake. Seth, the older and slightly saner of the two, with a tattoo snaking round his neck and down onto his arm, coerces his sexually deviant sibling into kidnapping faithless minister Jacob (Keitel), his jailbait daughter Kate (Lewis) and adopted son, and using their camper van to get across the Tex-Mex border, pitching up at the aptly named Titty Twister, an open all-night bar with a fine line in hostess action to wait until dawn when Carlos, their south of the border contact, will arrive.
To their (and Carlos’) surprise, the inhabitants of the bar mostly reveal themselves to be of the bloodsucking, undead, long in the tooth variety and are pretty soon chowing down on those mere mortals unlucky enough to be drinking in the bar. Cue mucho bloodletting as Rodriguez mixes John Woo with George Romero, and has a horrific hoot, hacking off limbs, heads and various other body parts with bloody abandon, as the remaining humans and vampires square up to each other in a neat variation on the Mexican standoff, with a rapidly diminishing supply of “weapons” and dawn still some way off.
As you’d probably expect, these are no ordinary caped, pale-faced bloodsuckers, rather deformed, twisted, hideous, full-bodied monsters courtesy of the effects wizards at KNB (the “K” of which, Robert Kurtzman, provided the story and originally paid Tarantino to write the script in return for KNB supplying the ear-slicing effect in Dogs). Clooney, in his first major role since hitting the big time with ER, proves why he’s going to be huge, while, alongside, Tarantino more than holds his own as the lecherous Richie lusting after Lewis. There are cameos from Cheech Marin (thrice), make-up man Tom Savini, and Rodriguez fave Salma Hayek as a stripper with a novel way of pouring whiskey into Tarantino’s gaping mouth. While certainly not for those people of the squeamish variety, if you expect to be entertained you’ll have almost as good a time watching this as they obviously had making it. A real monster mash.