Monday, October 31, 2011

Movie Appraisal: Cronos (1993)

Cronos, the Guillermo del Toro movie, is beautiful and different from anything else I've ever seen. That DVD cover poster right above these words is no indicative of the film itself either, mostly because that right there never actually happens in the movie.

I like del Toro's movies as a rule. I can't think of a single movie of his that I haven't liked. This one was no different. To me it's much better than Pan's Labyrinth, although not quite as good as The Devil's Backbone, which is his best work that I've seen, and I've seen all of his stuff besides Mimic. Cronos is a beautiful take on the vampire genre, making it into something different, alchemical rather than natural or based in evil. The whole movie is a retelling or re-imagining of vampires and how they might work in real life.

The story is actually quite good, starring Federico Luppi as Jesús Gris, an antique dealer who finds a hollow angel statue in his shop that had something strange hidden inside of it. This strange thing, called Cronos, is a device with an insect implanted within it that basically gives the user eternal life and a younger quality to their features.It also gives them an unnatural bloodlust. Vampire film! YES!

A very young Ron Perlman plays the nephew of a dying business man, Claudio Brook, and although his performance is campy and ridiculous, he plays the part so well that it's hard not to like him. He and Claudio Brook play the de la Guardias, who are looking for Cronos so that the elder de la Guardia will not die from his debilitating diseases.

This all comes down to an ultimate and beautifully done conclusion, that is both gruesome and amazing to watch. Absolutely sublime really when it comes down to it.

Cronos was a fantastic film. I really enjoyed it. I can't really think of a better vampire film off the top of my head.  I will say that the English speakers (all two of them) were not as great at acting as the Spanish speakers, but I enjoyed watching both of them regardless of their non-Shakespearean acting skills. 

I thought the music choice in some of it was pretty odd, and some of the stuff going on seemed a little convenient at times, but the story on the whole was really very good. I liked it for being an origin story of vampires, and I thought some of the grittier (or bloodier) scenes were absolutely fantastic. They were lovely to watch as well as being horrifying.

The Devil's Backbone is better in my own mind. Cronos didn't quite reach that level for me, but it was better than Pan's Labyrinth to me, not much better, but better. I think it was because the structure of the story was more coherent and less kind of meaningless. One of the reasons Pan's Labyrinth isn't one of my favorite films is because of the fantasy parts which I feel are pretty much useless and don't fit. I feel like this film fit together much better even if the acting was worse in every scene.

This movie is also very 1990s. It basically reminded me of other great 1990s horror films like... um... Jacob's Ladder for example. The cinematography was remarkably similar in some areas. The horror tropes found within the movie itself are beautifully done, a mix of old vampires myths and stories, and its own new kind of scientific vampire approach. A lot of the horror comes off as a bit campy though, and a little over the top at other times, but I don't think that the bloody or gory scenes were meant to scare. I think the scenes of Gris drinking blood are probably the most gutwrenching and terrifying, because you are seeing what he is becoming and you get the idea that a man can become a vampire without selling his soul, but to survive as a vampire, to have the eternal life of a vampire, the soul must be sold. Drinking human blood tends to make one a monster, and it's absolutely fascinating to watch as Gris makes his ultimate decision.

Anyway, this movie is ridiculously good and needs to be both watched and enjoyed by the masses. I can see why it may not be as well known as other del Toro movie, but this one is really well done and needs to be seen. It's very well done.

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