Posted in Other Media

Countdown to October: Movies 10–12


Year: 1993
Runtime: 1h 34m
Rated: R

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Writers: Guillermo del Toro

Stars: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook

Initial: I think I was getting Cronos confused with Timecrimes (2007) because I thought I’d seen Cronos, but I had not.

Production Notes: Guillermo del Toro’s first feature-length film.

What Did I Think:
Guillermo del Toro has a few signature things that have been evident from the beginning of his career. Bugs, clockworks, lost artifacts, and ancient tomes litter his worlds. (I suddenly really want del Toro to do an M. R. James adaptation . . .) Cronos has all these things, while giving a new twist to vampirism.

It’s always a fun to consider what sort of movie the characters seem to think they’re in. Jesus Gris, the grandfather figure, thinks he’s in fairy tale along with his granddaughter. Angel de la Guardia (Ron Perlman’s character) is firmly in a mob movie. Tito the Coroner is obviously in a Sam Raimi movie. Most of these facets more or less fit together. In a way, the cronos device, sleek and gleaming gold, is the most out-of-place thing in the movie.

Cronos is rather rough around the edges. It has a 70s feel, which I think is mainly due to its soundtrack. The pacing drags a little here and there.


Year: 1987
Runtime: 1h 34m
Rated: R

Director: Clive Barker

Writers: Clive Barker

Stars: Andrew Robinson, Clare Higgins, Ashley Laurence

Initial: I was going to make this a Guillermo del Toro week, but I really wanted to rewatch Hellraiser.

Production Notes: So, they’re rebooting the frachise, eh? Well, The Night House (2020, dir. David Bruckner) wasn’t bad, so maybe it won’t suck . . .

What Did I Think:
. . . Because, while there are some really good things about Hellraiser, it has weaknesses.

Let’s cover the good things first:
The first noticeable thing about Hellraiser, over its plain black and white titles, is Christopher Young’s score. It’s big and epic. Sweeping. It starts us off in an appropriately serious state of mind. Secondly, the film has one of the most recognizable antagonists of the 80s (even if he isn’t really the bad guy). The creature design of the Cenobites is iconic and plays into another strength of the Hellraiser franchise, the unfamiliar mythology. Yes, there are some allusions to Christian theology (it’s called Hellraiser, after all), but the Lament Configuration (another great design) and the Cenobites (“demons” because there is no better word) have no analogies.

The not as good things:
Occasionally, the editing is kind of odd. Sometimes, it might be due to cuts being made for ratings purposes, but also it feels like there is a lack of a good, connecting, establishing shots. I think this also leads into some of character motivations feeling murky. Julia and Frank had a brief fling before her marriage, but the sex must have been pretty good if she’s willing to help skinned Frank kill other guys for their flesh. There were some cuts made to her sexy-times flashbacks, so maybe we’re missing that. Also I could maybe understand her reasons more if her marriage was really awful. Instead it’s just boring, but probably not boring enough. Julia isn’t really shown to be in enough crisis to fit her actions.

Unfortunately, the reboot seems to be going in the direction of young people problems, so it’s unlikely that original character weaknesses will be tightened up.

The Possession

Year: 2012
Runtime: 1h 32m
Rated: PG-13

Director: Ole Bornedal

Writers: Juliet Snowden, Stiles White, Leslie Gornstein

Stars: Natasha Calis, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Kyra Sedgwick

Initial: Decided this was a “cursed object” trio of movies.

Production Notes: Based on a true story–or at least inspired by the 2004 article “A jinx in a box?” by Leslie Gornstein.

What Did I Think:
The Possession is a fine movie. It’s well-written enough. The acting, especially by Natasha Calis, is good. As I mentioned above, it’s always nice to explore horror concepts that are away from Christian theology. But it really doesn’t bring anything new to horror.

The plot is pretty by-the-book, maybe a little slow. The effects are fine and in a couple of cases pretty good. Particularly, there is a sequence when Em has what seems to be a large hand under the skin of her face that is pretty neat. But not scary or even discomfiting. Reportedly cuts were made to The Possession to secure a PG-13 rating, and that’s a shame because the film never comes off as anything but safe. And if I never again hear a weird roar while something abrupt happens in a scene, it will be too soon.

The only thing that sets The Possession apart from many other similar PG-13 horror films is the very lovely cinematography by Dan Laustsen, who has lately been collaborating with . . . Guillermo del Toro. (Though not on Cornos. Guillermo Navarro was the DP there.)