Oct. 19: Cronos (1993):
Long before becoming famous for turning out Pan'92s Labyrinth and the Hellboy films, Mexican director Guillermo del Toro was making quietly effective horror films. His debut was Cronos, an unsettling, unconventional take on the vampire genre.
In the 16th century, an alchemist invents a golden, scarab-shaped device that clamps onto its owners, giving them both eternal life and a vampire-like need for blood. The device is lost until the 1990s, when it shows up in the shop of an aging antique dealer (Federico Luppi) who takes care of his granddaughter, Aurora (Tamara Shanath). However, there are others looking for the device, namely dying tycoon Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook) and his nephew, Angel (Del Toro regular Ron Perlman).
Vampires are often romanticized in films, but Cronos has a really interesting current of sadness and resignation to it that we don'92t often see. Jesus, the antique dealer, is horrified when the Cronos device first attaches itself to him, but he enjoys the power it bestows on him, and he wants to be around to care for his granddaughter, no matter what the escalating costs are. Late in the movie there is a pathetic scene that finds Luppi so desperate for blood that he licks it off the floor of a public restroom.
However, the movie isn'92t all despair. Perlman brings a humorous, if menacing, presence to the movie. His character is a thug who really enjoys his job. He whistles while he works, after all.
Despite some nifty scares, the film isn'92t all that consistently shocking. Rather, del Toro spends the film building an increasing sense of the horror of immortality, and how its deep costs can outweigh its boons. Eventually, we find it hard to avoid pitying the characters and their desperate attempts to cling on to a little more time, no matter how empty it is. That emptiness, and how it contrasts with the love between Jesus and his granddaughter, ends up being more effective and upsetting than any empty scares.
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'97 The Devil'92s Backbone (2001): An incredibly spooky film from Guillermo del Toro, it concerns a young boy who is a new arrival at an isolated orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. In addition to the trials of fitting in at his new home and trying to adjust to life without his parents, the boy must also deal with the fact that the orphanage is haunted
'97 The Orphanage (2007): Del Toro produced this creepy Spanish film about a woman (Bel'e9n Rueda) who returns to her childhood home to open an orphanage for handicapped children. Once there, her own son begins to talk to imaginary friends, but after the boy disappears, Rueda begins to think the orphanage might be haunted.
'97 Nosferatu (1922): There have been lots of takes on the vampire genre over the years, but, along with Cronos, few films find vampires to be as feral and pathetic as this movie, F.W. Murnau'92s silent classic which is a ripoff of Dracula featuring the animalistic Count Orlok (Max Schreck).