Thursday, June 27, 2013

Guillermo de Toro Retrospective: CRONOS

Starring: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Tamara Shanath, Cladio Brook, Margarita Isabel
Rated: R

And the retrospective fire keeps on burning!  This one will be a little different.  Previously, we would just follow a franchise's entire run.  This time, we'll look in at a director's oeuvre.  And I've decided on one of my absolute favorite working directors, Guillermo del Toro.  del Toro is a man who's an incredible visionary and gives the utmost attention to every detail in every mechanism and monster he creates.  He prefers to create monsters and try to crutch on practical effects whenever possible.  If you have a film of his that has interviews or a commentary, you'll know how engaging and incredible it is to listen to this man talk film.
  You don't even have to have his films, he's appeared on many Hitchcock releases discussing those films too.  I had the pleasure of getting to see him talk in person a few years back, but I'll brush over on that later.  For this retrospective we'll just be covering all feature films directed by Guillermo del Toro not all the countless things he's produced leading up to Pacific Rim on July 12th weekend!

del Toro's first film is a small film based upon a grander ideal and themes.  Its a little story dealing with vampiric nature.  The simplicity of it all is the beauty of it.  Basically we have an antique owner that gets a piece in that is getting attention from some shady figures.  Guy investigates the statue, finds a scarab, scarab attaches to the man and injects him with a some sort of serum and he starts becoming a vampire.  That's pretty much the basis.  It's very must the first piece of what del Toro now has as his own kind of Grimm Fairy Tale series (Devil's Backbone & Pan's Labyrinth being the others).  Its got that kinda of demented consequences for ones curiosity and deals with supernatural elements.

While we never get to see a vampire on a big hunt, we get to see a man dealing with the transformation.  An elder man gets to experience the pleasures of feeling youthful once more, but its all for not as the vampire way begins to take its control.  He loses wrinkles, he gets his energy and groove back, but slowly he's succumbing to his bloodlust and slowly is unable to be in the sunlight.  Also, he's got some baddies on his tail wanting the device which he has.
In this first film, we also get the first of many collaborations between actor Ron Perlman and del Toro.  Perlman plays such a villainous yet somehow humorous goon.  You're scared of him, you don't like him, but you can't help but laugh at him and love his presence.  Not only is it just Perlman, even the smallest role is littered with so much character in this film.  The undertaker who has about 2 lines and a minute of screen time is just radiating with depth and detail.  del Toro does a great job in making every face memorable and every role count in this small story.

del Toro is also very good in his films with bringing children into an adult story in a very credible fashion.  Part of the strength of Cronos and your compassion for Jesus Gris rides on the coattails of his relationship with his granddaughter.  They share a sense of wonder, but while she has restraint, her grandfather lets his curiosity get the best of him.  But she never gives up on him, letting him stay with her and keeping him concealed once he has risen from the dead.  And it's so well put its such a satisfying moment when Jesus has the strength to restrain himself from feeding on Aurora.
Another aspect displaying Guillermo del Toro's strengths in detail is the scarab device itself.  It could just be this little gold thing that injects something, but no.  We get fine detail of how it works.  Inside there's all sorts of details in its inner workings.  There's gears and parts moving all about.  I'm willing to bet del Toro could tell you EXACTLY how it works too.  Also inside is some sort of insect just adding a fine level of disgust.  Its a really impressive little piece.  I'd say it should definitely sit as a collectable next to your Hellraiser puzzle box in your horror collection.

The special effects in Cronos are of del Toro's very best specialty; practical.  There's some nice moments that make you wince and some blood to make you uneasy.  The most impressive effects come from Jesus Gris' body.  When he's passed on and his skin is dead, it looks quite real and a bit gross.  Then to top it off having the new layer of marble skin under him is very cool.  And the old skin is able to just peel right off.  What's even better is that actor Federico Luppi looks the same size during the whole thing.  He never looks a little heavier.  If you've never seen this movie, you'll be quite impressed with the effects.
So there you have Cronos.  It's an amazing start for someone's first film.  Every little nook and cranny is produced with the utmost care and completely thought through.  If you want a little horror fairy tale that features some great drama and a little fun, look no further.  I've always held this little movie in high regard.  If you've not seen it, stop stalling, check it out.  Criterion has a fantastic release of it feature an amazing HD restoration.  Well worth your dollar.

Next Time: we'll get into Guillermo's least favorite film he's done...MIMIC

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