Archive for October, 2016

‘Cronos’ and a trip to the LACMA to be ‘At Home with Monsters’

Posted in Uncategorized on October 28, 2016 by Justin T.

cronos

‘Cronos’ (1993). Directed by Guillermo del Toro. Starring Frederico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Tamara Shanath, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel, Daniel Gimenez Cacho.

Guillermo del Toro is a unique visionary in the horror genre. The imagery in his films is colorful and detailed, full of references to fairy tales, comic books, insects, and death. He never goes straight for the gross out, instead exploring the darker sides of fairy tale motifs, sometimes mixing innocent wonder with the terror of a child hiding under their bed covers. Or giant robots smashing the hell out of giant monsters.

Cronos is his first feature and although it’s not as visually compelling as some of his later work, it’s still a fantastic film. Jesús Gris (Frederico Luppi) is the owner of an antique shop in Mexico. He and his granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath) discover a golden device that, unbeknownst to them, was created hundreds of years ago by an alchemist searching for eternal life. What first seems like an amusing toy becomes a terrifying device that latches on to Jesús’s hand and pierces his wrist with a sharp, golden barb.

Well, that’s one way to become a vampire. The word is never spoken but the signs begin to appear… he burns in sunlight and he thirsts for blood. Yet his granddaughter’s devotion for him never wavers and she cares for him when most people would be terrified of what he’s become. Unfortunately Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook), an ailing and creepy businessman, is also after the Cronos device and the eternal life it promises. His body and impending death have become an obsession with him to the point where he keeps in jars pieces of his body removed during past surgeries. Having discovered who now holds the scarab, Dieter sends his hired thug and nephew, Angel (Ron Perlman), to take it from the old shopkeeper by any means necessary.

Cronos may lack the hypnotic magic of Pan’s Labyrinth or the haunting imagery of The Devil’s Backbone, but it is still a great film. Frederico Luppi gives a touching performance as an old man with immortality thrust upon him. The relationship between him and his granddaughter could have been handled many ways but it is given a tenderness that is neither creepy nor overly sentimental. It almost makes Perlman’s sardonic performance feel out of place… almost. I suppose he doesn’t go too overboard and that it merely seems like he does by comparison. I liked the conflicted relationship with his boss/uncle. Angel’s resentment at being coldly ordered around provided a bit more depth to a character that could have been a mere thug.

Even though this is technically a vampire movie, don’t expect any attacks on humans or long, emotional soliloquies about how hard it is to be immortal. Nor should you expect any cradle-robbing, though youthful looking, sparkling creatures of the night. Like most of del Toro’s best horror films, Cronos is a thoughtful and intelligent exploration of death and mortality.

Speaking of the themes of Guillermo del Toro’s films, earlier this month I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see a large number of pieces from his Bleak House in an exhibition called ‘At Home with Monsters’.

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Del Toro’s Bleak House is any horror fan’s dream. It is a residential house, apparently separate from where he lives, that contains an enormous amount of books, statues, props, toys, and other bizarre yet beautiful objects. It may sound like a genre fanatic with too much time and money took things too far, and in a way it is, but his collection is a bit more sophisticated than what you might first envision. This isn’t a collection of plastic encased action figures and collectors coffee mugs he picked up at a local comic book shop.

I don’t think I can do it justice. Here, let the man himself tell you about it:

Also on display were a number of his notebooks. While you couldn’t physically handle them a screen was provided for each one that allowed you to browse digital scans of the their pages. It was fascinating to see the words and drawings of a such creative mind.

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Here are a few more of my favorites of the over two hundred pictures I took.

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A statue of the Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth

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A Nosferatu marionette hanging on the front of a grandfather clock.

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This display of Ray Harryhausen caught my breath when I saw it. His films had a large effect on me as a child and seeing him surrounded by his creations nearly brought me to tears.

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Replicas of figures crafted by Harryhausen from Jason and the Argonauts.

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Original artwork by Bernie Wrightson for an illustrated edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

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A lifelike statue of H.P. Lovecraft. I wasn’t able to tell what book he was reading.

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A tableau of Boris Karloff having his makeup applied for his role as Frankenstein’s monster.

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A statue of the Pale Man from Pan’s Labyrinth.

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Storyboards and concept art by Mike Mignola for Hellboy.

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Wayne Barlowe’s ‘Duke Agares Seated atop a Shuffler’

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Any fans of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion might remember this one, painted by Disney artist Marc Davis.

This is a small sample of the hundreds of amazing items on display.

This NYT article shows some of the pieces in their natural habitat at Bleak House. I especially love the figure of Lovecraft standing near the bookshelves with his finger in a book, looking up as if he just heard you come in. Or Poe sitting in a plush leather chair, gazing into space as he ponders whatever Poe-like thoughts he’s mulling over in his mind.

If you have the opportunity to make it to Los Angeles before the end of November, I recommend checking it out. Or you can find it in the near future as it tours through Minneapolis, Ontario, or Mexico. But after that, you might just have to become buds with Guillermo and see if he’ll let you hang with him at Bleak House.