For a show based largely in and around the horror genre, From Dusk Till Dawn seems to find its bread and butter working with familiar horror tropes, but in a more clever, subverted manner. The “smart horror” presented by the series is one of its stronger aspects, but this week’s episode, “Shady Glen,” is far more an homage to classic zombie thrillers than it is to the show’s own take on the horror genre.
Following last week’s emotional knockout, this week is heavy on the shenanigans and easy on the pathos. It’s strongly funny in some parts, but given that the show itself is currently dealing with some heavy subject matter (there’s a teenage girl trapped in her own body, for starters), episode 3×05 struggles to find a balance between moments of banter and moments of substance.
This week leads in off of the end of last week’s episode, when Richie (Zane Holtz) was confronted by Dakota Block-McGraw (new cast member Nicky Whelan), and managed to escape after surviving a shotgun blast to the chest. It’s fine, he’s a vampire, but the fallout of the fight puts a wedge between Richie and Freddie (Jesse Garcia); he and Dakota are adoptive siblings, and it’s worth noting that their interactions are some of the strongest of the episode. While a newcomer, Whelan holds her own in the episode, bringing just the right amount of crazy that a character like Dakota needs to survive more than one episode with the Geckos.
Also worth noting is that similarly to 3×02, when Kisa (Eiza Gonzalez, not in this episode) quickly figured out that Santa Sangre was the reason Kate (Madison Davenport) had become Amaru, Dakota is the one to figure out where everyone is getting a case of the cannibals from.
First: How the Geckos have managed to live this long without constant supervision is a miracle, and second: Did I forget to mention the cannibals? Oh boy, are there cannibals.
If “Shady Glen,” is anything, it’s the Dusk gang suddenly teleported to an 80s horror film; the acting is overdone, the gore is downright dramatic, and the monster of the week is something right out of Fraggle Rock. I assume this episode is a bit less heavy on the monsters because it wants the viewers to focus on the culebra world itself; unfortunately, that’s kind of hard when there’s little CGI bugs flying around.
However, in moments where characterization is strong, the entire cast shines. Seth (DJ Cotrona) as the unwilling team leader turned temporary cannibal was one of the stronger performers this week; Cotrona brought a very Robert Rodriguez-inspired humor to his zombiefied persona. On another actor, it may have been cheesy, but Cotrona is just tongue in cheek enough to keep the performance throughly enjoyable. When paired with Whelan as the damsel in distress, it’s the kind of magic that horror is made of.
Scott (Brandon Soo Hoo) is another stand out this episode, as the unwilling and youngest pseudo-Gecko sibling, his role at Seth’s right hand is played well by Soo Hoo, and leaves the viewers asking what might come out of Scott staying with the Geckos for more than half a season. Probably nothing good, though the sibling chemistry between Soo Hoo, Holtz, and Cotrona is something I hope they continue to play with on the show.
Also returning this week were Ximena (Emily Rios), Burt (Tom Savini), and Professor Turner (Jake Busey), all of whom provide comedic levity to the episode, but who aren’t really given enough scenery to chew with everything that’s going on. There’s CGI bugs, people! The scenery is scarce! And while fight scenes between the full ensemble are worthy of every Emmy, ever, more lowkey scenes are left feeling rather drawn out. The kiss between Ximena and Freddie, for example, relies more on the chemistry between Garcia and Rios (longtime friends and costars) than it does on the actual character relationships. Garica and Rios are excellent as Ximena and Freddie, but if the show wants to give them an honest chance, they need more time as a duo.
Now that Amaru has Richie with her, it’s likely next week will be chock full of torment and tears. As someone who loves watching Holtz and Davenport play off each other on screen, I can’t wait.
From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series airs at 9/8c, Tuesdays, on El Rey Network.