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Posted by martinteller on February 2, 2013

The aging, deteriorating magnate De La Guardia (Claudio Brook) is searching for an ancient device that grants immortality.  His resentful, lunkhead nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) aids him in his search, fetching numerous statuettes thought to contain the charm.  But it’s already been found, by the antique dealer Jésus Gris (Federico Luppi) and his small granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath).  He’s unwittingly used the device and doesn’t welcome its effects… including a powerful thirst for human blood.

This is a unique take on the vampire mythology, but honestly at this point I’ve had enough of unique takes on the vampire mythology.  From Martin to The Hunger to The Lost Boys to Park Chan-wook’s recent Thirst, it doesn’t feel new anymore, even when it is new.  The twists here are mildly intriguing — especially the elderly protagonist — but I was never that interested in what was going on.  Guillermo del Toro, directing his first feature, can’t seem to decide what to focus on.  The film could be more interesting if it explored the history and mechanism and implications of the device more, but it doesn’t develop that thread to much satisfaction.  Or the film could be more touching if it explored the relationship between Jésus and Aurora more, but on that front it comes up short as well.  All the business with the De La Guardia clan just feels like wasted time, time that could have been better spent going down one of the movie’s other avenues.

I did enjoy Brook’s performance, he does a fine job expressing the pain and bleakness of his situation, as well as the affection towards his family.  The other actors, however, aren’t that hot.  Perlman tries to do a comic performance which fails miserably.  Brook is your standard wealthy old bastard.  Shanath gives a whole lot of blank stares (but at least she isn’t annoying).

What del Toro does get right is the visual aspect.  The production design is often stunning (that device is a nifty little number), the extensive makeup is very impressive and the film has lovely cinematography, sometimes bathed in golden light.  That final image is quite beautiful, I must admit.  The gore and Cronenbergian body horror is unsettling without seeming gratuitous.  But in general I was underwhelmed, somewhat unsatisfied.  Rating: Poor (57)


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