Thursday, September 22, 2011

Living Forever is Grossly Overrated

There's something interesting about the fact that the original Nosferatu (1922) came about because its creators could not get the rights to Dracula, and thus gave birth to their own unique and creepy take on Stoker's classic tale. As a result, ever since there many vampire movies have chosen to even further deviate from the original standard vampire cliches, and the best ones have done this rather successfully. Cronos (1993), a modern update of the vampire lore, is one such movie, and Del Toro does a fantastic job of making a believable movie that is not just a horror movie.

Early on the movie is largely setup, but with a very large payoff. Without properly establishing Jesus' tender relationship with his granddaughter, or giving us strong hints into how much Angel despises his uncle, what happens later in the film would have no emotional strength to give it character or strengthen the overall movie. Even though the beginning narration feels oddly lifted from some PBS documentary about the dangers of trying to live forever. "You see, this fellow here decided to create a very special device...."

How the rest of the movie plays out is very interesting, as Del Toro slowly but surely builds and continues to layer the foundation, making Jesus' plight into something even more sinister and eerie. Even though certain elements of this movie are not at all horror, the film itself belongs to the genre based on the fact that its not only creepy mostly throughout, but also the obvious: Jesus becomes midway through the movie a vampire. Not your typical vampire, of course, yet nevertheless a creature of the night seeking blood.

This is mostly articulate through several moments, primarily when Jesus in a moment of weakness actually licks blood off of the bathroom floor. The rational response would be for one to react in horror; however since Jesus is a rather sympathetic character, one feels pity for his condition instead. Cronos is fascinating not just in how the movie plays out, with Angel's rage and anger going against him, but also for moments of real tenderness and love as displayed towards Jesus by his granddaughter, Auroa. Who even though she quickly recognizes that the device has transformed her once loving grandfather into an ancient monster, does not judge but continues to care for him, which comes off as surprising and touching.

Honestly this is one of those few horror movies where the ending manages to be unexpected, not to mention open ended, without resorting to tricks, jump scares, or being overly depressing. Which is really quite refreshing for a change, as is the movie's overall tone and style. Powered also by a rather understated and beautiful score, and complimented by its rather good cast, this is an outstanding addition to the vampire sub-genre of horror movies.

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