Friday, 10 October 2014

Film #10: 'From Dusk Til Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter'

'From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter' is the third movie in the 'From Dusk Til Dawn' series. It's also the third and final western in my apparent horror western sequence this week.
It also exists in spite of the collective will of everyone who subjected themselves to 'From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money' wishing this franchise out of existence.

'From Dusk Till Dawn 3' is a historical biopic about journalist and satirist Ambrose Bierce's journey to Mexico as he goes in search of Pancho Villa's revolutionary army with a view to joining up. I sh*t you not, that is a 100% accurate description of this movie.
This is the first thing few seconds on the movie:

OK, as biopics go, they've taken some liberties, but name one film based on a supposedly 'true story' that didn't take liberties with the story or character?
If we were going to cry for historical accuracy then 'Good Morning, Vietnam' would have featured a much more subdued, by-the-book Adrian Cronauer; and we'd have been staring at a blank screen for every one of Sean Connery's wonderful scenes in 'The Untouchables' because he didn't freakin' exist. And that's just the beginning, but I don't want to get too bogged down in what didn't happen, and instead concentrate on what COULD have happened to make a more satisfying narrative for a movie.
Ultimately when we watch 'true stories' we're there for a story not the truth.

'From Dusk Till Dawn 3' is not a true story the way 'The Strangers' is based on a true story, the massive difference between them is that this film could have actually really have happened.
Ambrose Bierce, as his Wikipedia page tells me, disappeared off the face of the planet, and no one can apparently prove that he didn't encounter vampires along the way; so, yes, this movie is as accurate as pretending that 'Cool Runnings' is a true representation of its events.

The film open with that introductory card. We're then introduced to Bierce, played by Michael "I'm Going To Carry This Movie With As Little Of A D*mn As I Care To Give" Parks, who clearly phones this entire film in and still manages to outshine every other thing in it - Unless you're a Danny Trejo fan, in which case skip to about 39 minutes in when he makes his appearance.

But skipping any part of this film will ruin the carefully crafted formula of the 'From Dusk Till Dawn' film, like where some stuff completely unrelated to vampires goes on for about 50 minutes, then they get to the vampire bar and everyone's a little weird, then it gets dark and all of the staff turn in to vampires and everyone else either gets eaten or turned or has to fight their way out. Actually, wait, skipping the first 50 minutes of this film completely erodes the biopic nature of the film so don't do that!

We open with Ambrose Bierce, he wants to be a revolutionary for no readily identifiable reason, in fact whenever he goes to sleep he has a dream in which Pancho Villa executes him for no reason, but still Bierce persists.

He sets his sight on a stagecoach going somewhere, again not identified, when a pause in his journey gives him time to watch the public flogging and hanging of a criminal. Mid-flogging the hangman's daughter (and that's the film's title explained) shows up, and is subjected to the same flogging, because apparently the hangman has some sort of OCD which compels him to whip people he recognizes a set number of times, like flicking on/ off a light switch to prevent a loved one's death.

In this case *spoiler alert* he needs to whip his daughter because she's half-human half-vampire or something, and needs to be beaten at regular intervals in order to subdue her animalistic nature. This doesn't make any sense and is only explained later in the film, where it's not really elaborated on.

If that part of the story is a little weak and makes no sense, wait until the vampires show up at which point the film really loses its sh*t in the makes no f**king sense area. For no reason there's a sepia-toned dance sequence, and Bierce gets drunk during a bar fight and sees a sober version of himself and the two proceed to tip their respective hats before signing 'gun fingaz' towards eachother.

Anyway, the hangman, having exhausted himself with beating a criminal and his own daughter sets about hanging the man, only for the rope to be shot out and an escape to be made. The hangman, suffering from whatever the executioner's equivalent of blue-balls is, sets after the criminal to finish the job.
And also to retrieve his daughter who flees too, but he seems far less concerned with that.

Long story short, the newly-freed criminal ends up robbing Bierce's stagecoach, which he shares with a newly married couple, they end up taking refuge in a bar run by Danny Trejo, and eventually Bierce's group, the hangman's posse, and a criminal gang all end up in the bar when both the sun and some serious vampire-related sh*t goes down.

As biopics go, this is all a little gratuitous in terms of violence (a lot of violence) and boobs (did I mention that the bar is also a brothel?). Yes, horror films thrive on that stuff, but do true stories?
I want to say that Ambrose Bierce lived out his life in a slightly more dignified manner than just avoiding death because he was too drunk to notice a bar brawl. But, what do I know! I only just learned about Bierce's life from a Wikipedia page, so as far as I know this film could be an accurate portrayal of this stage in his life!

So, go in with an open mind, don't read any biographies of Bierce and this film should do a good job filling in a cloudy portion at the last presumed stages of a famous man's life.
Go in expecting too much resolution to that man's life, or adding anything to the 'From Dusk Till Dawn' franchise and you will be sorely disappointed.

It mightn't leave you filled with the warmth of 'The King's Speech', but maybe - just maybe - unlike 'The King's Speech's loose association with the truth, 'From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter' as a biopic didn't want to lie to us about this time in Bierce's life. This movie does end with hope for him, and maybe one day we'll know what happened to Bierce after this. Until then, we have this movie.

'From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter' is on Netflix UK & Ireland.

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