Since the first From Dusk Till Dawn was all about subverting our expectations about the genre that it initially laid out for us, it makes sense for the sequel to do the same thing. Here, we’re initially promised a heist movie, with all of the tropes that this genre carries. We get to meet the crew, see their different skills in action, and so on. But something happens in Texas Blood Money that we do not expect — or do expect, considering you’ve probably seen the first one. This is no ordinary heist movie, you see.
There is still a heist element, but Texas Blood Money is far more interested in being a low-grade knockoff of The Thing, which isn’t a bad horror film to take inspiration from. One by one, group members become changed into (spoilers if you haven’t seen the first movie) vampires, and end up waiting until they can get another member one on one so that, yes, they can also be turned. That entire idea might not be unique to The Thing, but it’s pretty clear what’s being ripped off here, especially because certain scenes play out in exactly the same fashion.
The problem is that what made The Thing worth watching was the tension caused by never knowing exactly who was infected. Here, we know who is and who isn’t for the entirety of the time, so any potential standoff carries little thrills for us. We already know that the main character isn’t infected, so anyone accusing him of potentially being so isn’t going to have much of an impact. And there’s no tension generated from two uninfected characters going into a room and staring one another down, because we know that neither is a vampire and therefore nothing will come of it.
That’s not the only issue with this, as it disregards what the vampires did in the first From Dusk Till Dawn. There, as soon as the transformation from human to vampire was complete, the new vampire became a savage beast, unable to control emotions or thoughts — at least, while the moon was out. Here, they all still go through with the heist plan until, I wager, they’d all be infected, at which point they might just give up. Or, as a couple of characters reckon later on, maybe they’d still go through with the job, because sentient vampires would still need the money.
I wager that it’s still a plus that the film doesn’t just become another terrible genre flick, and instead becomes two terrible genre flicks, each of which isn’t given enough time to develop or really do anything besides being there. Sure, it’s nice to not have our low expectations matched (I guess?), but it grows tiresome once you realize that Texas Blood Money has no aspirations above being a worse version of The Thing.
Apart from the vampires, there are a couple of other things that you’ll notice that return or are referenced from From Dusk Till Dawn. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, Danny Trejo is back as the bartender of that trucker bar that really shouldn’t still exist, and the Texas Ranger that was murdered in the first film’s opening is mentioned briefly, I think by the actor’s actual son, James Parks. Oh, and there’s a Terminator reference or two, because the lead is played by Robert Patrick. That’s just kind of neat to see, I guess.
I suppose it’s kind of admirable that Texas Blood Money does attempt to deviate from the plot of its predecessor. It doesn’t go for the “bigger is better” approach to sequel making — in large part because it’s a direct-to-video affair with a much lower budget — and instead does its own thing … which just so happens to be a poor ripoff of The Thing, but at least it’s trying, and I have to give it credit for that. It easily could have tried to top the final to From Dusk Till Dawn, even on a lower budget, and it would have been even worse if it had.
Another positive that Texas Blood Money has going for it is that Bruce Campbell is in it. He’s only in the opening scene, which is a movie within a movie, but he’s always fun to watch, and opening with him — much like the first film opened with Michael Parks — is a good way to begin. And, hey, don’t you just feel compelled to see anything that has Bruce Campbell in it?
Apart from Campbell, and perhaps Trejo, there’s nothing memorable to anyone in the film, and especially not in their characters. You can remember some of the actors, I suppose, but when it comes to defining character features, I drew a blank. And that’s with entire scenes dedicated to the character, as we learn what he or she is good at when it comes time to pull off the heist. But, no, there is no genuine characterization here, and by the end, I would have a hard time telling you any given character’s name.
From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money isn’t necessarily a terrible sequel, but it’s just a generic heist movie crossed with a poor version of John Carpenter’s The Thing. If that sounds interesting, well, then you’ll probably want to check it out. If it doesn’t, and you have no affinity for straight-to-video sequels to B-movies, you’ll want to avoid it. It does its own thing, but it’s not memorable in the least, and it’s not even that enjoyable in the moment.