There is still no explanation as to the origin of the strip club/temple. Not that I really cared, mind you. In the final shot of “From Dusk Till Dawn,” it was a great final blow to the audience to show how these vampires have likely been committing these slaughters since the mid-1800’s. I didn’t need to know how they got together and devised this idea to lure bikers and truckers to feast on them, but I assume if they’re going to continue the series with a prequel, you might as well give it a shot and explain how the temple came to be. Maybe an 80’s montage set to “Our House” with the vampires building the club and painting it at night or something.
Instead “The Hangman’s Daughter” is the origin of Santanico Pandemonium, a character originated in the first film who had a sexy dance, had two minutes of dialogue and died before the second half of the film. I guess, even without the presence of Salma Hayek, someone felt it’d be a good idea to fill us in on how she became a vampire. It’s only an after thought however, since “The Hangman’s Daughter” is really just a remake of the first film. Where in the first movie was a contemporary Western mixed with a vampire movie in the mold of John Carpenter, “The Hangman’s Daughter” is an actual western where bandits and criminals end up having to fight a den of vampires posing as a bordello and strip club.
But, unlike the second movie, this isn’t some stupid B horror movie. It’s written by Robert Rodriguez’s cousin! I have as much faith in that credit as I would if Jaws 2 were written by Steven Spielberg’s nanny. “The Hangman’s Daughter” is a cut above the other direct to DVD garbage, with Gregory Nicotero providing much of the special effects, while the great Michael Parks co-stars as author Ambrose Bierce who is exposed to the vampire carnage and cunningly evades their attacks. “The Hangman’s Daughter” has some unique ideas, and decent direction, but fails to deliver anything exciting or interesting in its events.
It’s bad enough it’s pretty much beat for beat, a carbon copy of the first film, but a lot of potentially brutal scenes are hampered by ridiculous turns. For example when all hell breaks loose in the stripper bar, Rebecca Gayheart’s character is first hypnotized by a male vampire with a tango before he bites her. Also the vampires rather than draining their victims leave them hanging and easily able to escape. And in the finale a vampire is kicked in the crotch and it squeals a high pitched screech, oddly enough. I’m still not sure why Santanico Pandemonium is such an important character for the mythos.
Sure she was immortalized by Salma Hayek and was sexy, but beyond that why do we need to know about how she ended up among her vampiric kind? By centering on her and her alone the film sets up a lot of loose ends. Like when her surrogate father explains that she simply can’t be killed no matter how hard he tried, and yet she’s easily dispensed in the first film by a falling chandelier. In the end, “The Hangman’s Daughter” has some interesting ideas, I just wish it was able to tell its own story rather than just retread the same material from the first film.