Cronos, A Review

As imaginative as the title of this blog post is, this film is much more imaginative than that, believe it or not! Cronos, aka La Invención de Cronos, is exactly what H.P. Lovecraft would’ve ordered on Amazon Prime for another quiet night in. It’s a beautifully made film released in 1993 by Guillermo Del Toro, a then young misfit special effects makeup artist and short film director who spent eight years trying to get this movie made.

The film starts prophetically in 1536, where an old alchemist creates a device, part watch, part supernatural insect, part grandmother’s broach. The device, Cronos, has the ability to grant eternal life. This is true because the voice over narrator says so. The alchemist, who created it to resemble an analog watch with its gears and ticking, uses it for four hundred years until he is killed by a building collapse in 1937. His fitting dying words were “suo tempore” translated from Latin as “one own’s time”.

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The lost Cronos apparatus turns up again sixty years later in an antique dealer shop owned by Jesus Gris, an old man who lives a quiet life with his loving wife and sweet granddaughter, Aurora. His happy life gets turned upside down when a strange man wanders into his shop and discovers an antique Angel statue with one eye missing in Jesus’ inventory and runs off. Jesus inspects the statue further when cockroaches invade the base of the statue which leads him to find the Cronos. It then attaches itself to his hand, leaving him injuring and confused. Jesus soon finds himself younger and full of vigor. It isn’t long until he realizes why it’s a sought over artifact.

His antique shop quickly gets ransacked after Angel De La Guardia, played by Ron Perlman, buys the same statue to find it empty. All that’s left of his mess of a shop is a business card which leads him to De La Guardia’s uncle, a dying wealthy industrialist who, so I’ve been told, is not Hyman Roth. Jesus Gris then escapes De La Guardia just long enough to have Chronos hid by his young granddaughter.  As the family is ringing in the new year at a party, De La Guardia abducts and kills Jesus. But how can he be killed if he’s immortal? He’s not dead! He breaks out of the crematorium and finds his granddaughter Aurora, who lovingly makes his bed in a toy chest after discovering that he burns when he’s exposed to sunlight and has a new penchant for blood.

What happens next is an artfully written third act where paying the price of eternal life leaves many consequences and an ultimate sacrifice. This film was Del Toro’s first feature film that won him the recognition and friendships from directors like James Cameron and Pedro Almodovar. A romantic ode to horror served in a Frankenstein/Dracula combo. Del Toro, who studied under legendary special effects makeup artist Dick Smith while making the film, even formed his own company, Necropia. The effects and gore go perfectly with this elegantly rich fabled story. All I gotta say is, come for the grotesque, stay for the beauty.



Ice Cream Man

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Ice Cream Man

Not as literal as I'd hoped...

This movie came heavily recommended on a thread on Reddit which made me immediately purchase the double feature DVD with Jack Frost 2 for seven dollars. What a deal! Thanks highly upvoted internet stranger! Ice Cream Man is exactly the definition of a campy slasher film with a low L.A. budget production value where saying you get taken out of the movie constantly is an understatement. And I enjoyed every minute of it.

The movie starts with the origin story of the Ice Cream Man. He is a mischievous young boy who witnesses his neighborhood ice cream man killed outside the ice cream truck. Soon after, this young boy spends his formative years in a mental institution with a maniacal doctor who makes sure to drive home the point that, “There are no bad days, only happy happy days!” Appropriately the new adult Ice Cream Man is played by Clint Howard, whose younger brother, Ron, is famous for starring in the popular 70s sitcom Happy Days, directing Willow and other stuff.

Clint Howard does his best creepy Ice Cream Man face when he pulls up to a regular suburban neighborhood, handing out lots of treats mixed with body parts to kids. He starts with a dog owned by his institution nurse/landlady (Olivia Hussey) and soon moves on to people, starting with a young boy who goes missing soon after he runs out after the ice cream truck. The police are called and detectives go straight to the Ice Cream Man to ask him questions. They then order ice cream cones, one of which has a squishy eyeball inside. Lots of close ups in that one.

The movie also stars a ragtag team of kids who call themselves the Rocketeers: Johnny, Tuna, Small Paul and their very own Beverly, Heather. These kids know something is up with the disappearance of the young boy, even if the police or their own families believe they shouldn’t be getting involved in this crime investigation. “Damn meddling kids!” -adults in movies. But once Small Paul gets abducted too they take action, and to hell with anyone who went missing before. These kids go to all lengths to save each other including launching a live rocket and using ice cream-making equipment as a weapon to bring down the Ice Cream Man!

Ice Cream Man is directed by Paul Norman who may (and should) be very proud of this movie. This was Paul’s first and only foray into mainstream filmmaking. He is more known for his pornographic films such as Intercourse with the Vampire 1 & 2, the Edward Penishands trilogy and the Bi and Beyond collection. Get them all if you’re a completist!

This movie does what others couldn’t, which is fitting a severed head into a giant ice cream cone. If you want to have as much fun as the filmmakers did, then watch this movie. There is a particular favorite scene at the mental institution where the patients parade around police detectives that will undoubtedly have you want to join them. Go crazy and get a scoop of Butter Brickle you pied piper ice cream dicks!

-Carolina Hidalgo

Mother's Day

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Mother's Day

Fuck camping.

I really like Troma films. I was in one! For about three seconds but it counts! The movie I was in was great but Mother’s Day is my favorite. The movie centers around of course, mother. She’s very much a living version of Norman Bates as his mother but shittier. Mother lives in the New Jersey rural wilderness with her two sons, Ike and Addley. Mother’s hobbies include luring unsuspecting victims to their death, slashing throats and watching her adult sons, Ike and Addley, put on improv shows with abducted victims. This family is the worst of humanity, living in filth and depravity with Pink Flamingos pride.
The main plot starts with the story of three women who have been best friends since their crazy college days and take an annual trip to somewhere exotic like New Jersey for a girls weekend. They each have their own distinct personalities: Trina the Beverly Hills blonde who enjoys throwing cocaine fueled pool parties, Abbey the insecure quiet girl who takes care of her demanding elderly mother, and Jackie, the strong smart one with awful taste in men who take advantage of her big heart and coke stash. The three girls head out to the Deep Barons for a weekend of fishing and drinking until the brothers, Ike and Addley, literally grab the girls in their sleeping bags and throw them into their home for Mother who is delighted to have new victims to terrorize.
Now the next part is the not so fun part. The girls do go through a traumatizing ordeal, especially Jackie a la Last House on the Left. The family is gross and abhorrent to the extreme. I can’t even watch Ike and Addley eat, much less their other activities. Even though they are Saturday morning cartoon villain two dimensional characters (see Bebop and Rockysteady), they’re capable of total horror that makes you more uncomfortable the more time you spend with them. But that’s the point! And just like LHOTL, the third act makes it worth it. I am spoiling the movie by saying the family gets what they deserve but how they do is the thrill ride that we’re all waiting for.
This movie is well written and produced for a budget of a hundred grand and I’m happily surprised. Not that I thought an early Troma movie would suck, but it’s amazing how well the comedy and scares are written. Uncle Lloyd’s brother Charles Kaufman directed Mother’s Day and wrote it with Warren Leight who has enjoyed a great producing career with tv shows like Law and Order and In Treatment. It’s clear a bunch of twenty year-olds with a talent for making low-budget B horror movies put together something worthwhile, something that will make me always think, “To hell with camping.” There’s no way there’s not a Leatherface behind every brush in the wilderness. You’ve been warned. Don’t go messin’ up in Deep Barons lez-beans!
-Carolina Hidalgo

Brain Dead

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BRAIN DEAD

 

the one with both bills

Brain Dead is a great movie. The title, however, is a misnomer. That’s because the brains - including the ones kept in jars - are alive. ALIVE I TELL YOU!!! Then again, who’s to know what’s dead and what’s alive within the realms of this universe. That’s what this movie is all about. Brain Dead is not just a sci fi horror film but also a philosophical film. It’s a sci fi phi film.
The story revolves around Dr. Rex Martin (Bill Pullman), a scientist studying the brains of those no longer with us. That’s until his old college roommate, Jim (Bill Paxton), shows up asking for a ridiculously unethical favor. Jim wants Dr. Martin to study and subsequently lobotomize the brain of Halsey (Bud Court), a patient at a mental institution who claims he works for Conklin Mattresses. Halsey truly believed that his former imaginary boss, that crazy man Conklin, murdered Halsey’s family. But according to Jim, Halsey is a scientist and employee of Eunice Corporation. Jim is tasked to find in Halsey’s brain the extra special numbers that will revolutionize science and McGuffins for all mankind. As you can see, it’s hard for Dr. Martin to say no to studying a “fresh brain” as opposed to his stacks and stacks of boring old brains that are held in jars on his lab shelves that really should be stabilized with a couple more screws. It’s an accident waiting to (inevitability) happen!
Now this is where the fun part really begins. After Dr. Martin performs what seems to be a successful operation on Halsey, Dr. Martin starts to see a crazy old cackling man drenched in blood, the same one Halsey was seeing! All of a sudden everything feels like an illusion and nothing makes sense anymore with Dr. Martin falling from one reality into another. But what is reality unless you experience illusion? Start packing your bowls my friends.
There’s one point during Dr. Martin’s journey where he is told he’s the actual Shutter Island Halsey living in a mental institution because he murdered his wife and her love Jim. Wait, what? THAT JIM? I’ve already said too much. Then Halsey comes to rescue him, letting him know he’s innocent not once, but twice. The second time around Dr. Martin asks, “Have we done this before?” Halsey responds, “Are we doing this now?”
That’s the existential nightmare that makes the movie. The plot resembles a gorier version of a Twilight zone episode, no surprise as it was written by Charles Beaumont who wrote a fair amount of TZ episodes including the classic “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You”. Unfortunately he never got to see this film as he died in 1967 but I’m sure he would have been proud. Sure, it’s low budget, the editing is not quite right, and the music was dated even in 1989. But in the end, it makes perfect sense, only because it doesn’t.
-Carolina Hidalgo