Wednesday, January 11, 2017

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series - Fanglorious

Vampires rock 'n roll.

The snake-like vampire creatures the Culebras were once servants in Xibalba (a.k.a. Hell), ruled over by a Queen Amaru. When the Culebras escaped to our realm, Amaru pursued them, and soon found herself in over her head. She was killed by the vampires, who feasted on her flesh but saved her blood. Amaru's blood made contact with a wound on the dead body of Kate Fuller (Madison Davenport) in the season two finale of From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series, allowing the Queen of Hell to take over the teenager's corpse.

The return of Amaru has coincided with the destruction of the Titty Twister vampire den/Mayan temple/strip club, where many Xibalban demons were kept captive in a supernatural labyrinth within the temple. The demons have escaped and they still serve Amaru, taking on the Culebras and building toward the ultimate goal of opening a door to Xibalba, unleashing Hell on Earth.

As explained by demon hunter Burt (Tom Savini) and his vampiric former gal pal Ximena Vasconcelos (Emily Rios) in the final moments of the previous episode, 'Protect and Serve', that is the villain plot that is driving From Dusk Till Dawn season three forward. Works for me, and sounds nice and apocalyptic. Then again, there was a point when the plot of season two sounded nice and apocalyptic, but it only built up to vampires stealing a tanker truck full of blood. Yes, I'm still grumbling about that.

As interested as I am to see where the Amaru story goes, 'Fanglorious', the fourth episode in the ten episode season, had a few other elements that hooked me even more than that, like a returning cast member, a new character, a cast addition, and an uncredited cameo.

The returning cast member brings with him that new addition and an explanation for the episode's title. Amaru has found Kate's adopted brother Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo), finally showing up in this season. The vampiric Scott is now playing in a band called Fanglorious, and one of his bandmates is played by Daniel Zovatto of It Follows and Don't Breathe. I always like it when Zovatto turn up in another genre project. He was on a couple episodes of the second season of Fear the Walking Dead, but his role didn't amount to much. I have a feeling he isn't going to become a From Dusk Till Dawn regular, either, but it was nice to have him stop by.

A Fanglorious concert is not an event I would like to attend, because it's dangerously unhygienic. Scott slashes open his palm with a knife, then that knife is passed through the crowd so audience members can slash their palms open as well, all sharing the same blade. Then Scott walks through the audience, pressing his bleeding palm against their bleeding palms. No, thank you.

Scott is actually looking for a victim that way. He can see people's secrets by mingling their blood with his. The worst person in the crowd will become dinner for him and his vampire bandmates.

When Amaru finds Scott, she nearly kills him with whatever supernatural power she has. They're separated before she can do everything she intended to do to him, but their brief interaction does offer tantalizing clues that the situation with Kate may not be as hopeless as it seems.

With Scott in the custody of our heroes - former bank robber Seth Gecko (D.J. Cotrona), his vampire brother Richie (Zane Holtz), and Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia) - a trio of hellish mercenaries who look like The Road Warrior rejects are sent to track down and retrieve him. These three are our villains of the week, using their arrows, blades, strength, fighting skills, and chameleon cloaking ability to infiltrate the Culebra compound.

These three, the Jaguar Warriors, pale in comparison with season three demons that have come before, like the Skull Keeper, but they're capable ass-kickers, even giving Richie the Predator "Stick around" treatment and killing a Culebra guard that IMDb tells me was an uncredited Kurly Tlapoyawa, the star of The Stink of Flesh.

The new character that caught my attention was Doctor Dakota Block, who isn't exactly a new character in the strictest sense. Playing Dakota, Nicky Whelan is actually replacing Marley Shelton in the role, as she was a character in both Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and Quentin Tarantino's Death Proof sections of the Grindhouse double feature.

Doctor Dakota Block is the daughter of Texas Ranger Earl McGraw, a character who was played by Michael Parks in the 1996 From Dusk Till Dawn film, Kill Bill, and Planet Terror. McGraw was then played by Don Johnson in this series, and his character was killed off way back in the pilot. Dakota doesn't have much screen time in this episode, appearing just long enough to get me wondering what she'll be doing on this show.

The Jaguar Warriors not being monstrous makes them a bit of a letdown, but 'Fanglorious' is a fast, action-packed episode, well written by series veteran Marcel Rodriguez (who previously wrote the episodes 'Let's Get Ramblin'', 'La Conquista', 'Attack of the 50-ft. Sex Machine', and 'The Last Temptation of Richard Gecko'), and directed by series newcomer Eagle Egilsson, a helmer with a lot of TV credits to his name, including episodes of Arrow, Gotham, Nikita, and three different CSI shows. Egilsson perfectly matched the style of the show with his episode and did a great job presenting the action.

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