February 18, 2020

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter (1999)
Grade: 57/100

Director: P.J. Pesce
Stars: Marco Leonardi, Michael Parks, Ara Celi

What it's about. A vampire western fantasy, set in rural Mexico circa 1914. Cynical and celebrated American author Ambrose Bierce (Michael Parks) moves to Mexico to join the forces of revolutionary Pancho Villa. On his way, he stops in a pueblo, where he attends a failed hanging. The rope of young outlaw Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi) is split by a bullet from youthful killer Reece (Jordana Spiro).

Madrid escapes on a stolen horse with hottie brunette Esmeralda (Ara Celi), the teenaged daughter of tough-guy hangman Temuera Morrison. The hangman leads a posse on his trail. Bierce leaves town on a stagecoach with two missionaries, the husband and wife team of John (Lennie Loftin) and Mary (Rebecca Gayheart). Madrid joins up with his gang, and they rob Bierce's stagecoach.

Because it's a movie, they all end up at a roadhouse, the same building as the Titty Twister from the first From Dusk Till Dawn flick. And, once again, the employees are all vampires, from the bartender (Danny Trejo) to the madame (Sonia Braga) and prostitutes. Inevitably, they show their fangs and attack the human cast, who is joined by black brush salesman Ezra (Orlando Jones).

The vampires are especially excited about the presence of Esmeralda, who is apparently somehow the spawn of Morrison and Braga. After the initial vampire attack, the surviving humans must overcome their grudges against one another and join forces against their malevolent hosts.

How I felt about it. As suggested by its title, From Dusk Till Dawn 3 is one of two sequels to From Dusk Till Dawn (1996). Both sequels were released direct to video in 1999, and lack the A-list stars of the first movie, which played in theaters. The sequels were different. Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money is similar to the first movie, while The Hangman's Daughter is a western prequel.

Texas Blood Money is undeniably a bad movie, but The Hangman's Daughter is better than its reputation. True, George Clooney, Juliette Lewis, Harvey Keitel, and yes, Quentin Tarantino are absent, but their less famous successors do good work here. They are agreeably campy, and Rebecca Gayheart and Ara Celi are as attractive as hoped for by the male demographic.

The film's first half differs from From Dusk Till Dawn, but once the vampires show their demonic faces, the plots of the two films become much alike. Disparate humans with deep-seated disagreements escape into a barricaded area and are picked off one by one by the vampire demons. Their efforts are not completely in vain, since they take many of the green-blooded creatures with them, and two humans survive.

Certainly, the movie is derivative, campy, and gory, but it's all in good fun. Presumably, no humans or demons were harmed in the making. And if Abraham Lincoln can become a vampire killer, why not Ambrose Bierce.

How others will see it. The reputation of The Hangman's Daughter is damaged by its direct-to-video status. It also suffers from comparisons with the original From Dusk Till Dawn, and its lousy companion sequel, Texas Blood Money.

So, The Hangman's Daughter has only 10K user votes at imdb.com, a tiny fraction of the 275K user votes for From Dusk Till Dawn. The user ratings compare even less favorably, 4.8 for Daughter versus 7.2 for the original. The user reviews confirm a cult status but many complain about the lack of originality, with one calling it an "already drained subject." Others state that they miss the clever dialogue by Tarantino, who penned the first screenplay. The Hangman's Daughter was instead written by Alvaro Rodriguez, the cousin of Robert Rodriguez, Tarantino's go-to stand-in director.