Viewed – 06 April 2012 Blu-ray
I have long been an admirer of Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, whose style of fantasy horror has led to such genre classics as Pan’s Labyrinth, Blade II and the Hellboy movies. He has a great eye for action, creepy imagery and comic-book excess, and would have been an ideal choice to direct the forthcoming Hobbit movies if it weren’t for production difficulties causing him to jump ship. Thankfully we have a rich back-catalogue of movies to enjoy, none more notable than this 1993 debut.
Jesus Gris is an elderly man who owns an antiques shop, who comes into possession of an Archangel figurine, and unknowingly discovers an ancient mechanical device hidden inside. He learns the device can grant him youth if he allows it to latch onto him, but soon discovers one major drawback – it turns the user into a vampire. At the same time, a wealthy tycoon on his death-bed has been searching for the device for years, and when he learns of the man’s discovery, a battle erupts for who will claim the device for their own.
Co-starring del Toro regular Ron Perlman as the tycoon’s nephew (and hired muscle) this is a gripping and unusual take on the vampire myth, boasting a quality performance from Frederico Luppi (The Devil’s Backbone) as well an enjoyable turn from Perlman. Yet this is largely Guillermo’s show and his artistry and imagination is shown off brilliantly in some great camera work, set design and imaginative, how-did-they-do-that make-up effects. For a horror movie it may lack shock moments or jump scares, but is still undeniably freaky, feeling very Edgar Alan Poe in its atmosphere. I was also surprised by how effective some of the moments between the old man and his granddaughter were, proving quite moving at times. For a debut it also proves that del Toro was a real talent from the off.
The Blu-ray boasts a very nice picture, that although lacking in fine detail, is clean and free of artificial enhancements. Sound-wise the Spanish and English dialogue is clear and precise and the haunting soundtrack is delivered fittingly. This isn’t a brash, noisy movie but quite subtle, yet is still very effective. This special edition from Optimum has a wealth of extras, including interviews, a director’s commentary (always a plus from the enthusiastic del Toro), a making-of and various stills galleries. An impressive treatment for a classic of the genre.
(the movie) 4 /5
(the Blu-ray) 4 /5