Tuesday 9 April 2019


Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro grew a reputation in the 1990's for making interesting, dark, sometimes gruesome but always creative and imaginative fantasy horror/thrillers. This 1993 film opened the door for him to a broader worldwide audience as he moved on to other opportunities like Mimic, The Devil's Backbone, Blade II, Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth, recently The Shape of Water and to come, the real-life Pinocchio!

He's been a busy chap! But it started here and I watched this back in the day but haven't seen it since. I decided to give it another go - with a view to working my way through some of the above-listed films, which I've missed along the way. I'm sure that I have missed a lot of deep symbolism here, but the story is an old one about the human lust for eternal life, an opportunity that arises to attain that for one, the chaos that invokes and price paid for getting involved.

It's a stylish take on the tale of the vampire and I'm really not one who would usually go for that. Quite the opposite, but the horror here is not cheaply or shockingly executed - rather weaved into a story which engages the audience from the outset and is intriguing enough to ensure that nobody leaves their seat until the finale.

We're initially in Mexico, four hundred years ago, and an alchemist makes a device which, when used properly, gives the user eternal life. Our central character is an antiques dealer and stumbles on the device 400 years later (so pretty much now current), then accidentally invokes it into action. When mechanically wound up it unleashes sharp feet which dig into the user and injects them with some sort of stuff! There's a rich and sick man, elsewhere but nearby, who 40 years previously stumbled on the handbook of instructions, penned in code and Latin by the alchemist, but couldn't find Cronos. And so a battle commences. The rich and sick man wants the device to make sure he doesn't die but our hero, who's now in the grip of the Cronos and becoming attracted to the acquisition of human blood, won't give it up. The rich man's nephew, played by Ron 'Hellboy' Perlman stands to gain the rich man's empire, which adds another twist as he is charged with doing his uncle's deeds - getting the Cronos at any cost, keeping the tension and drama high.

The team of actors are the director's favourites and pop up in his films later on. Frederico Luppi plays our main character and Claudio Brook the challenger. Ron Perlman is the only one I knew, to be honest, and he's certainly one of those actors and faces that you will absolutely have seen somewhere along the way. They all perform their tasks convincingly enough and the leap between spoken English and subtitled Spanish is wild! In the same scene often, one person speaking in English, the other replying in Spanish. I'm sure I'm missing the point of that!

The sets are dark always, and full of atmosphere. The horror is far from jump-out-your-skin stuff, rather intelligent and well paced. It's violent and bloody in parts, but that was to be expected, I think! There's some excellent, thoughtful photography and I particularly liked the inside of shiny Cronos in close-up with gears and cogs, clearly showing that there was indeed a living creature of some sort inside (set up by a previous discussion about insects being able to live hundreds of years, left undisturbed). The music, at times, feels very dated (a bit like you'd expect in a 1980's episode of Colombo) but at other times lifts the tempo and adds to the style and atmosphere.

It's an excellent film which I really enjoyed first time out at the cinema and again now. I had forgotten a lot about it and was able to enjoy some of the twists and turns again. As I say, this really isn't my kind of genre, but I'm glad I re-visited this and will try again now with Pan's Labyrinth which I previously gave up on as daft. Maybe I'll see it with del Toro eyes this time! Recommended.

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