Posts Tagged ‘Guillermo Del Toro’

Movie Reviews 299 – Cronos (1993)

May 14, 2017

Director Guillermo del Toro is one of those creators who rose from the ranks of fandom, honing his craft over the years to ultimately become one of the greatest directors of horror and fantasy genre movies. With notable entries that include The Devil’s Backbone, Mimic, the Hellboy series and his magnum opus; Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro has garnered the respect of colleagues and fans alike by having a solid story foundation and then having solid characters to drive them. As auteur taking on the roles of writer, director and producer, his creations are thoughtful, imaginative, compassionate and always contain some element of horror.

And all this began with Cronos, his first feature film at the tender age of 27 which immediately caught notice and garnered accolades that gave him ever increasing leverage and budgets to do more. Fans of his other films will notice that it is also the movie that lays other foundations that will be familiar in his later career, be it professionals team ups with actor Ron Perlman, cinematographer Guillermo Navarro and a penchant for insect and bugs and steampunk mechanics – before steampunk was a fad.

When elderly antique shop dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) observes that one of his shoppers has taken notice of a particular angelic statuette his curiosity is aroused. As soon as the shopper leaves he scrutinizes the figurine more closely and discovers an ornamental gold scarab-like device hidden inside. Clutching the palm sized jewelry it momentarily comes to mechanical life gripping his hand with clenching legs and extruding a scorpion like stinger that pinches him.

The momentary pain is followed by a euphoric sensation but in the following days he also notices a return to vigor and even his wife Mercedes (Margarita Isabel) notices a slightly more youthful appearance. Doting over his pride and joy, granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath), he begins regularly – sting sessions which he believes to be a fountain of youth.

But the shopper that first lead his attention to the statuette was no regular customer but in fact one of many hired scouts searching for just such a figure at the behest of one Mr. De la Guardia (Claudio Brook), a dying rich man living in a sterile room. Upon hearing of the newfound statuette De la Guardia sends his nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to purchase it, but is dismayed to learn that not only has the device he was seeking gone, but that Gris was draining the source of its powers.

Now, not only does Jesus have to deal with Angel trying to force him to give up the device, but he also learns it’s true secret, which is not exactly the nirvana he thought he had stumbled upon.

Rife with symbolism and allegory – in case you did not pick up on the suggestive religious connotations of the character names amongst other hints – the film is both profound and suspenseful. The secret of the device built by a 16th century alchemist and it’s internal workings shown in detail are both amazing and shocking.

This movie really has everything that del Toro fans have come to love without skimping on detail despite not having the budget of his later films. Now he and Perlman can just give us one more Hellboy


Movie Reviews 239 – The Orphanage (2007)

October 17, 2015

The OrphanageRare is the horror movie that perfectly blends elements of terror with human drama to achieve near “perfect movie” status. The Orphanage is one of those rare gems. Yes, it is clearly a horror movie from the outset with distinctly creepy things going on, but it is also the story of a mother’s love for her sickly child and that is the premise that overrides the movie from beginning to final frame.

Largely associated with Guillermo Del Toro who produced it, credit goes to director Juan Antonio Bayona and especially to writer Sergio Gutiérrez Sánchez for creating this tantalizing and touching Spanish movie while performing that acute balancing act between drama and horror.

A former orphan herself, Laura (Belén Rueda) and her husband bought her former orphanage mansion and while living in it now as their home she hopes to create a new orphanage. Her own son Simón is adopted and recently learned he was not their own child after a mysterious visit by an elderly woman claiming to be a social worker who brings the news that Simón is HIV positive. Rattled and not wanting to hear more, Laura brusquely puts the woman to the door, only to later find her scampering the mansion grounds at night. At a party the next day Simón disappears without a trace. The only hint is a mysteriously child with a bag-like head covering that Laura encountered at the party. But no one can recall the child other than Laura.

Six months later, Laura is a disheveled mess, desperately still searching for her son. She chances upon the mysterious social worker one day in the streets of the city only to see her die before her very eyes. As the police pry into the woman’s past they discover that she had prior ties to the old orphanage which included a disfigured son named Tomás who often wore a bag-like covering to hide his features.

Laura resorts to a local psychic Aurora (Geraldine Chaplin) despite her husband’s reluctance and this only begins to tear the couple apart. But once alone, Laura begins to find clues to the mystery and eventually we learn the horrific truth of what happened that day.

Don’t be fooled by the boogeyman aspect to the plot as the film is built upon intricate threads and even the most innocuous of events become relevant as the story unfolds until the end. It’s not what we think. It’s worse. Because the horror of a missing child is more abhorrent than any monster, perceived or otherwise.

Movie Reviews 15 – Blade

September 21, 2010

Blade (1998)
Decided to rewatch this movie as I am in the midst of reading Marvel Essential series of Tomb of Dracula comics which feature the original 70’s version of Blade the vampire hunter. Its a good movie with snazzy bloody fight scenes (if a little over the top), but there are lots of better vampire movies out there. Blade (Wesley Snipes), a half human, half vampire tries to rid the world of the nasty creatures of the night with the help of an old companion (Chris Christopherson) who also brews a concoction that keeps Blade from turning completely into a vampire. But as Blade’s body becomes acclimatized to the serum, it begins to loose its effectiveness. As a rule of thumb once a person gets bitten by a vamp, they will soon turn, so the best bet is to kill them immediately. But after one woman gets bitten one night, Blade brings her in to his hideout. She’s a hematologist and starts working on a permanent serum for Blade. Blade in the meantime is tracking a vampire that is seeking a long lost formula that will make all vampires virtually indestructible so that they may one day concur all of mankind for good. It all ends in one final messy showdown.

Blade II (2002)
I’m not sure why, but I was under the impression that Blade II was a sucky movie. Actually avoided it for a long time, until I decided to watch the trilogy in sequence. Now that I’ve seen it, all I can say is why the hell did I wait so long? It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch, but it does have a lot going for it. The never ending fight between Blade and vampires is interrupted when a new breed of creatures that feed on vampires forces Blade to join the vampires to fight this new stronger common enemy. But there are many questions regarding this new breed and where they came from. If director Guillermo Del Toro isn’t enough to entice you (for some reason I never knew he directed it), then the inclusion of Ron Perlman should seal the deal. Seriously, have you ever watched a movie with Ron Perlman in it that was bad? He can be in a stinker and still make it smell like roses. Like its predecessor, Blade II features a lot of fighting action. A LOT. And while all that fighting was great, some of the CGI effects used to create them were a bit unrealistic and thus made some of those sequences look cheesy. But all those cheesy fighting effects are easily forgiven when you see some of the novel creature effects. Now that I’ve watched Blade II, I can’t wait to watch Blade Trinity.

Blade Trinity (2004)
Blade is captured when his hideout is hit by a government tactical squad in which his longtime companion and mentor Whistler dies. Another group of young vigilante vampire hunters rescue Blade. But the new ensemble have to deal with a much larger threat than the common day vampires and the few humans that help them. A small group of vampires have unleashed the mightiest vampire of them all, Dracula himself, in order to strengthen their breed. The new group of Blade helpers include actors Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel, both of which are welcome additions and really spruce up the movie. Reynold’s many one liners are almost worth it alone. There is a funny scene in which Blade is handed a vintage Marvel “Tomb of Dracula” comic issue when questioning who this new formidable foe is. Knowing comic readers will appreciate the reference as Blade is a recurring character in that comic series as well. All in all, a nice finale to the Blade series of movies.