Tuesday, January 17, 2017

From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series - Straitjacket


A vampire sets a trap, others walk right in.

We are now officially in the second half of the third season of From Dusk Till Dawn, the series that builds on concepts first introduced in the 1996 film written by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Robert Rodriguez, and the start of the second half comes from a creative team new to the show - 'Straitjacket' was directed by Rebecca Rodriguez, Robert Rodriguez's younger sister who many fans may remember as the star of his 1991 short Bedhead, and was written by Fernanda Coppel, who joined the series as a story editor this season and earned her first "written by" credit on this episode.

The Rodriguez / Coppel collaboration earns its title from the fact that it's set almost completely within the confines of the abandoned Nicotero State Hospital, a location named in honor of special effects artist Greg Nicotero, who was part of the KNB FX group with Robert Kurtzman, who came up with the original idea for From Dusk Till Dawn. In this hospital, bank robber turned vampire Richie Gecko (Zane Holtz) wakes up in a straitjacket after being abducted by Queen of Hell Amaru (Madison Davenport) at the end of the previous episode. Richie manages to get out of that straitjacket and get a call out to his brother Seth (D.J. Cotrona)... and in doing that, he plays right into Amaru's hand.

Amaru casts a spell on Richie, brainwashing him, making him a danger to the rescue party Seth assembles to save him from the asylum. Especially once they're trapped in the place with him.

'Straitjacket' plays a lot like a slasher movie. Characters wander the dark corridors of the hospital, then Richie will appear from the shadows and attack them with a blade or a drill... or drive a car into them... The fact that I didn't think most of the characters were truly in jeopardy did cut down on the tension, though. There was no way most of these folks were going to be killed off at this point. They did add in a former patient so they could give someone a bloody death, and Sex Machine (Jake Busey) sustains some damage - I would have been perfectly happy if they had chosen to take him out.

The character who seemed most likely to be expendable to me was vampire Ximena Vasconcelos (Emily Rios), who has entered into a troubled love triangle with Texas Ranger Freddie Gonzalez (Jesse Garcia), whose wife has gone into hiding with their infant child because her husband is always dealing with vampires. Ximena feels worse about sleeping with a married man than he feels about sleeping with her (he doesn't seem to feel bad about it at all), and the show could remove her from the equation to resolve the issue and further complicate Gonzalez's emotional state. I was concerned about Ximena.

There's not much to 'Straitjacket', but Rodriguez brought the story to the screen with some nice visual touches and proved very capable of shooting action. There is a great fight between Richie and sword-wielding vampire Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo) that had me thinking of The Raid. Or a TV version thereof.

Unlike the previous episodes of the season, there was no new monster introduced in this episode. The "monster of the week" this time was basically Richie, and he handled the job well.

This episode leaves the character in an interesting place, and may have given them a renewed purpose in their battle against Amaru. I feel better about seeing what may be ahead in the season at the end of 'Straitjacket' than I have after watching the two preceding episodes.

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