Reviewed by
Colin Jacobson

Title: From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money (1998)
Studio Line: Buena Vista

Get ready for nonstop action when a bank-robbing gang of misfits heads to Mexico with the blueprints for the perfect million-dollar heist! But when one of the key crooks wanders into the wrong bar…and crosses the wrong vampire…the thieving cohorts one by one develop a thirst for blood to match their hunger for money! Ultimately, the last fully human burglar is forced to join with his arch rival, a Texas sheriff, in an action-packed, kill-or-be-killed battle to stop these evil creatures and save their own lives!

Director: Scott Spiegel
Cast: Robert Patrick, Bo Hopkins, Duane Whitaker, Muse Watson, Danny Trejo
DVD: Widescreen 1.85:1; audio English Digital Stereo; subtitles none; closed-captioned; single sided - single layered; 22 chapters; rated R; 88 min.; $29.99; street date 9/28/99.
Supplements: None.
Purchase: DVD | From Dusk Till Dawn Collection

Picture/Sound/Extras: B/B/F

When the original From Dusk Til Dawn appeared in 1996, it was something of a disappointment. Despite the presence of a slew of notable talents like Quentin Tarantino (as actor and screenwriter), director Robert Rodriguez, and actors George Clooney, Harvey Keitel and Juliette Lewis, the movie received weak reviews and only scared up an anemic box office total of about $25 million.

Despite those issues, we got a sequel to the movie three years later. This new picture - FDTD 2: Texas Blood Money - exists due to the wonders of direct-to-video (DTV) productions; it never hits theaters but went straight to your local Blockbuster instead.

In general, DTV offerings have a poor reputation. Although a few gems slip through - some films don't get theatrical releases because of various financial reasons - the most are cheaply-made and uninspiring. FDTD 2 matches those criteria in spades. I wasn't wild about the first movie, but this stinker makes it look like a masterpiece.

At least it varies the storyline a little; while FDTD 3: The Hangman's Daughter is much better than FDTD 2, it does little more than rehash the first movie's plot, so I suppose the minor deviations seen here are a good thing. Unfortunately, that's the only positive aspect of this production that I can discover; otherwise it's a total drag.

In this film, a bunch of crooks head to Mexico for a big score. Unfortunately, one of them wanders into the Titty Twister - the bar from the first movie - after his vehicle breaks down; he hit a bat, which blew the engine. He meets the bartender, who's willing to give him a ride, but we soon find out that was no ordinary bat, and this is no ordinary bartender.

Soon the bloodsucking begins, and the tale turns into a more-or-less straightforward horror flick. While the story is tired and lackluster, it could have worked; after all, not many films offer really creative plots or characters. Usually the difference between a successful movie and a flop comes from the execution, and that's clearly where FDTD 2 falls short.

I won't fault the actors severely. After all, there's not much they could do with this clunker. The lion's share of the responsibility lies with director Scott Spiegel. He's so desperate to impress us with all sorts of visual gimmicks that he completely wears out his welcome.

For one, he fills the film with homages to other movies. For example, we find a shower scene that virtually duplicates that famous segment of Psycho. Did we learn nothing from the debacle of Gus Van Sant's 1998 remake of that classic? I guess not. I'm sure he intended this scene to be a cute tip of the cap, but it doesn't work; it seems gratuitously self-conscious, and the segment lasts far too long to be anything other than just a rip-off.

My main objection to Spiegel's direction, however, stems from the ridiculously-stylized photography used in FDTD 2. He tries to be inventive and clever but goes way too far in this realm. Shots are filmed from an absurd variety of vantage points. A dog drinks water, so we get a shot from under the bowl. There are bits filmed from inside/behind fans, trunks, and pretty much any other kind of object. Why? I have no idea.

On the surface, these "innovations" may seem creative and clever, but they simply exist to hide the lack of talent. It's all a load of visual gimmickry that in no way serves the story. In addition, it got annoying very quickly; Spiegel seemed so eager to out-Tarantino Quentin that he neglected to do anything other than create unusual camera angles.

Ultimately, From Dusk Til Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money is a terrible film. Other than some decent nudity - and not much of that - the movie has virtually nothing to offer. I didn't enjoy the 88 minutes I spent with it and certainly hope I never have to endure it again.

The DVD:

From Dusk Til Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Overall, the film presented a fairly attractive picture, though some small concerns kept it from looking terrific.

Sharpness seemed consistently strong. At all times the image appeared crisp and detailed, with no signs of softness or fuzziness. Moiré effects and jagged edged presented few concerns, and print flaws were minimal; some light grain and a few speckles could be discerned but no major defects seemed present.

Colors generally looked bright and vivid. The film handled a few instances of red lighting nicely; those scenes often cause the picture to look noisy and hazy, but that didn't happen here, and the film sported a palette that seemed clean and accurate. Black levels weren't quite as solid, however. For the most part they sported appropriately depth, but on occasion they looked somewhat bland and drab. This affected shadow detail, which could seem excessively thick. Interiors used a lighting scheme that made those scenes appear too dark and dim, especially when the light levels were low. Ultimately, FDTD 2 was eminently watchable, and it looked quite terrific at times, but due to some issues it only warrants an overall grade of "B".

The same goes for the film's Dolby Surround soundtrack. In general, it presented a fairly active soundstage. The forward channels dominated the mix and provided a reasonable amount of breadth to the proceedings. Audio spread nicely to the side speakers, which created a setting in which sounds moved adequately across the channels. The surrounds kicked in a lot of ambient noises and some more involving effects, such as when bats would fly about the screen. The monaural nature of the surrounds limited the effectiveness of these segments, but I thought the track seemed fairly involving.

Audio quality was somewhat more questionable. Although I heard no outright flaws in regard to the sound, I felt it seemed somewhat lackluster during much of the film. Dialogue appeared distinct and natural, with no concerns related to edginess or intelligibility. Music and effects both seemed clear and reasonably accurate, and the track could boast some fairly deep and tight bass at times, but the audio appeared vaguely bland and flat much of the time. Part of this may relate to the limited dynamics available in the surrounds; once one gets used to the full-range capabilities of Dolby Digital and DTS, the restricted audio of Dolby Surround can sound much less effective. However, the forward channels also displayed some of this drabness, so I can't pin all of the flaws on the encoding. Overall, the soundtrack seemed very listenable and occasionally quite effective, but the somewhat restricted quality offered at times dropped it down to a "B".

The DVD for the original FDTD offered a treasure-trove of extras, but you'll find nothing similar here. In fact, you'll literally find nothing here. There's no trailer, no biographies, no anything.

Well, when I consider the quality of the film, I can't complain too much - if I produced DVDs, I wouldn't want to invest much time in a clunker like this either. The film aspires to a level of inventiveness and bravado that it can't meet, and the entire package fails due to this absurdly over-the-top attempt to out-Tarantino Quentin. The DVD provides decent but unspectacular picture and sound plus absolutely no supplements. Avoid this DVD.

Note: From Dusk Til Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money is available on its own or as part of a package that contains all three of the FDTD films. Are there any advantages to the purchase of this box? Not many. You save only a little money; the box lists for $89.99, and the titles separately would cost $92.97 (the first movie is $32.99, while the two sequels run $29.99 each). With that package, the DVDs also come in a nice slipcase and we get a very good booklet. Otherwise the boxed set possesses no advantages over the individual DVDs; the content on each is identical.

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