It's easy to be pessimistic whenever someone remakes something you once loved. No matter how involved the original creators may be in the new version, and regardless of whether or not the original could actual stand to be updated, the default fan position is, to put it nicely, "I don't know about this..."
As much as they may argue otherwise, the truth is fans just don't want change. They want to remember things a certain way, and they think everyone should have the same relationships with something that they do, which causes any remake to feel like an interloper trying to capitalize on nostalgia. And it's fair to think that. The movie industry is a business, after all, and manipulating someone's nostalgia is an easy way to make money.
Thankfully it doesn't appear that's what Robert Rodriguez and his El Rey Network are doing with From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series.
Earlier this year I was able to visit the set of the new show, filming at Troublemaker Studios in Austin, Texas, and came away mighty intrigued by what Rodriguez and his band of very devoted collaborators were cooking up. And considering I was one of those skeptical people going into it, it was a pleasant surprise to see that all my assumptions about the show were quickly shattered. Here are the reasons why:
From Dusk Till Dawn the movie is somewhat simple: fugitives kidnap family, take them to bar in the desert, turns out bar is run by vampires, they must survive the night. There's really nothing about that storyline that screams episodic TV show. So when the series was announced, I assumed that the movie would basically be the pilot episode, and then the rest of the show would just be about people fighting vampires secretly living in society. Considering there are already a number of shows on the air about that (or just exchange vampires with other supernatural creatures), that doesn't sound very appealing. Thankfully, that's not what the series is doing.
As Rodriguez explained to us, the entire first season is going to follow the same chronology of the movie from dusk to dawn. "But wait, isn't stretching that story out across 10 episodes even worse" you might say. And you'd be right, but that's also not what they're doing. The show is going to follow all of the same major beats of the movie, but it's going to be filled with a lot of tangential stuff that we never saw in the movie. It's essentially a touch like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard's brilliant play that shows the events of Shakespeare's Hamlet through the eyes of characters that were relatively minor in the original story.
So who are these characters going to be? Well some are creations for the show, and some are preexisting characters from Tarantino's script. So basically, the narrative of the show is going to shift periodically, and we're going to see things, like bank robberies and offscreen murders, that were only alluded to. Granted, it's not as though the first film was riddled with mysteries that needed answering and this show is filling in the blanks, but as with Tom Stoppard's play, there can be a lot of unexpected value in seeing the same story play out through different eyes.
We were told up front that the character's fates have been changed from the movie. That doesn't mean everyone who dies in the movie will survive the show, but it does mean that you can't bank on every single thing playing out the exact same way it did in the movie. So this isn't going to be a case where you're just waiting for someone to kick the bucket when and how they did in the movie. The deaths should all come as nice surprises.
The day we visited the set we were able to speak with D.J. Cotrona (Seth Gecko, George Clooney's character), Zane Holtz (Richie Gecko, Quentin Tarantino's character), Madison Davenport (Kate Fuller, Juliette Lewis' character), Brandon Soo Hoo (Scott Fuller, Ernest Liu's character), Eiza González (Santánico Pandemonium, Salma Hayek's vampire goddess), and Wilmer Valderrama (Carlos Madrigal, a new character). They may not be a roster of names you're super familiar with, but talking to them it was very, very easy to see what Rodriguez saw in them.
They're all sharp, charismatic personalities in sync with the vibe of the show and Rodriguez's overall vision for it. They were all well aware of the former cast's shoes they were trying to fill, but thankfully there didn't seem to be any attempt to just parrot back the original characters blindly. Each had a refreshing energy to them that seems more than up to the task of matching the creative spark and demented glee and horror that this story eventually runs into.
The Set/Troublemaker Studios:
When we visited Troublemaker Studios they'd already filmed six (of 10) episodes, and had completely rebuilt the entire Titty Twister bar set from the original movie. It was impressive, to say the least. But it's not quite as impressive as the overall cinematic factory that is Troublemaker Studios, which really is a one-stop shop for everything you need to make a movie (or TV show). This is the place that made a parking lot in Central Texas look like a tropical jungle for Predators. The people there manufacture every aspect of production themselves (except for cars), and they can basically do so on demand, which gives them incredible flexibility to meet the needs of anything they're shooting. It's a very cool little wonderland of a place, and their resources should give the show the freedom to deliver every twisted creation they can think of.
El Rey Network:
Above all else, this is the number one reason to be interested in From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series. Basically, Robert Rodriguez's new TV network is unlike any other on air. And that's not because it's created to appeal to Latin demographics, but because it doesn't have the same hierarchy of control that you'd find at an AMC, NBC or even HBO. There are no executives in charge of development who are mandating what needs to be in each episode. There's no one to veto anything because it's too violent or too sexy or too weird. Creative control starts and stops with the man who gave the world The Faculty, Planet Terror, Roadracers, El Mariachi and Sin City.
Of course, this is a TV show so don't go expecting hard-core sex and nonstop gore just because Rodriguez is in control, but it does mean that this entire endeavor is more experimental than it would be if it were on, say, AMC. Does it mean the show will automatically be brilliant? No. But it's going to be fascinating to see how it all plays out.
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series will have its world premiere at SXSW (Saturday, March 8 at 4:30 p.m. at the Vimeo Theater) and will have its broadcast premiere on El Rey Network Tuesday, March 11 at 9 p.m. EST. Keep your eye out for it.
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