Last week I happened upon a Twitter conversation between a couple of guys talking about From Dusk Till Dawn and whether or not it was a spoiler to call it a “vampire movie.” In that conversation Eric D. Snider said the following:
So I decided to take a look – the movie’s 20th anniversary also passed earlier this week, which makes for nice timing – and see if indeed there were any hints as to the vampiric nature of the antagonists in this Robert Rodriguez/Quentin Tarantino collaboration. And looking at the trailer for the movie I can say…yeah, there were hints.
In fact it’s more than that, it’s stated outright that the bar Clooney, Tarantino and their hostages show up at winds up being populated by vampires and other demons. Less than a minute into the trailer the vampires show up and the rest of the runtime is devoted to showing the humans fighting off the undead hordes around them.
That’s only half the story, though. Our current obsession with or fight against spoilers is a relatively new phenomenon, something that’s been fed by the rise of so many press outlets vying for the ad dollars that come with traffic and so doing anything to get that traffic. Spoilers are more pervasive than ever, sometimes in direct opposition to the wishes of the filmmakers. I’m not saying you weren’t a jerk for telling your friends who hadn’t seen Empire Strikes Back that Vader was Luke’s father, I’m saying that information usually had to spread from person to person directly. It wasn’t waiting around every corner of the internet.
Anyway, while I wasn’t able to find many stories in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter about the movie’s production, what I did find didn’t mention the vampire element at all. Reviews, though, were another story. Ebert and other critics called out the vampire twist in all their reviews, so anyone waiting for those to decide on seeing the movie likely knew exactly what they were getting, even if they hadn’t seen the trailers.
As Miramax was selling the film in 1996 they obviously didn’t feel the vampire story was a spoiler or that it was something the audience needed to be surprised by. Quite the opposite, they apparently felt the vampires were going to be a big part of the reason people would want to see the movie and put it front and center in the trailers. The poster doesn’t call it out specifically, but given the “It’s going to be one hell of a night” copy alongside the bats flying out of the bar, it’s pretty easy to put those two together and come away with “vampire.”
One thing I couldn’t find in my searches was whether this was a decision Tarantino, who wrote the script, and Rodriguez, who directed it, agreed with or resented. The Weinsteins have a history of making marketing calls that they feel are in the movie’s best interest but which sometimes run in direct opposition to the wishes of the talent involved. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Tarantino and Rodriguez wanted the vampires to remain secret but were overruled by the dictates the Miramax marketing department received from Harvey Weinstein.
To answer Eric’s question, though, no, saying this was a vampire movie wasn’t a spoiler in 1996. It was right there as a primary component of the film’s official marketing. Whether that helped or hurt the movie is a hypothetical to be discussed over a beer or three.