Monthly Archives: January 2013
A medieval artefact, known as the ‘Cronos’ device, which allows the user to cheat death, emerges in Mexico in the 1990s. A kind old man and his granddaughter are soon dragged into a cursed web of mysticism and horror as they realise that this ‘gift’ comes at a terrible price.
Guillermo Del Toro’s debut feature is an offbeat family drama masquerading as a piece of modern-day vampire mythology. The prologue is a haunting, antiquated tale of an alchemist’s search for immortality and it’s from here that Del Toro lands us right in the middle of his soap-opera.
The atmosphere and look of the film is slyly dreamy. The camera curls around our lead characters and the modern but eerily gothic Mexico they inhabit. The shots of the Cronos device itself are curiously artistic although Del Toro is smart enough to know that the best thing he can do is to hold back details on what actually compromises the alchemist’s toy – all we see are clock-workings and a strange worm-like creature inside. In fact, the movie is littered with clocks, simple metaphors for the personal wars our characters have with the concept of time.
The cast is strong and veteran Federico Luppi is fantastic as the unfortunate Jesus Gris, a doting antique dealer and grandfather who receives the unwanted ‘gift’ of eternal life. The dying businessman De La Guardia, played by a chillingly desperate Claudio Brook, is the perfect libertine who will stop at nothing to obtain the only thing that can save his increasingly broken body. At least this is what it seems on first viewing. Further consideration and repeated viewings dilute the motives of a forlorn and very sick man. It’s for this character richness, which Cronos should be most remembered for.
There are two things which really stay with you after watching this movie. The first is the scene where we realise that our gentle Gris has developed a taste for blood, as he follows a nose-bleed victim into the toilet at a society ball and chillingly proceeds to lick the bloody discharge from the gleaming marble floor. The second is the innocence of Gris’s granddaughter, a little girl who only wants her beloved Grandpa to stay with her; no matter the price. The closing moments of the movie are poignant reminders that horror films can be intelligent and beautiful, as well as fearsome and thrilling. Del Toro has guile to shoot a film like this.
Hotdog rating: 9/10
A young family move to a small town and take-up residence in a former mortuary….a place with a checkered past.
Tobe Hooper’s a strange kind of director. He’s spent his entire career working exclusively in the horror genre but his output has been on a slow downward trend ever since The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 (1986).
This straight-to-video effort is intriguing for a horror fan like myself – it’s been some time since I delved into the belly of the ‘bargain-bin’ category which Hooper has been inhabiting for the past two decades – and I wanted to see if the director of such classics as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) and Poltergeist (1982) was really done for.
Some interesting characterisations aside, this is a very dull movie. It’s also pretty mindless and confused. Not enough attention is paid to developing either the backstory or the character of the villain whilst the inclusion of some strange fungus which appears to be controlling the zombies is bewildering in a manner uncommon for movies of our time. To make matters worse, the only score to the film appears to come from a horrid nu-metal band….
In the past, Hooper was a master of the ‘unseen’ terror. In his earlier movies, the audience saw the horrors through the sordid reactions on our protaganists’ faces, not explicitly on the screen before our eyes. Here on the other hand, Hooper cannot refrain from showcasing the make-up effects after the first 30 minutes and the film suffers for it. Moreover, his zombies are faceless marauding bores populating a barren landscape of a picture.
Other reviews have noted the ‘Lovecraftian’ feel of the movie. For me, this is nonsense. What we have here is a below-par zombie movie, which doesn’t know where it’s going for the most part. One of the worst films I have seen in the last 12 months.
Hotdog rating: 2/10