A magical world that only Guillermo Del Toro could imagine for us.
Guillermo Del Toro's legendary dark fantasy horror film Pan's Labyrinth (2006) is a wonder of impeccable filmmaking. From the haunting practical effects for The Faun to the terrifying Pale Man costume, Pan's Labyrinth provides a fantasy realm of magical creatures as well as a brutally realistic Spanish war drama. Guillermo's direction is staggering with his fascinating imagery, gorgeous visuals, childlike wonder, shocking depiction of war crimes, and scary monsters. The question he poses is really who are the true monsters in Pan's Labyrinth.
Guillermo's writing is fantastic with heartfelt empathy of his young heroine and sympathy for those lost in the war. You are always on edge as to what will happen next in Guillermo Del Toro's dark fantasy. Pan's Labyrinth is nothing like you've ever seen. I love how Guillermo has a young innocent girl witness atrocity after atrocity in quiet horror as we see as viewers how trauma forms in children during warfare.
Editor Bernat Vilaplana's cuts are so dreamy as scenes melt into one another for 118 minutes of wonder. Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro uses cool blues and greens for a mysterious and haunting look, while a warm and scary look for the war and horror sequences. I love the chilling close-ups on creatures, especially the Pale Man being disgusting.
I adore The Fawn. He's my favorite film creature prosthetic with his mystical figure and Doug Jones' majestic movements and intriguing gestures. Jones gets you curious as The Fawn, so that he can terrify you as the Pale Man. I think Doug Jones deserved an Oscar for his enigmatic and enthralling Fauno alone, not to mention his unforgettable Pale Man. I loved child actress Ivana Baquero as the adorable and compelling Ofelia. You feel all her fear, wonder, and curiosity within Pan's Labyrinth.
Eugenio Caballero's production design creates a real fantasy world with his stellar sets. Pilar Revuelta and Laura Musso's set decoration is fabulous with wood and leaves to adorn Guillermo's fantasy land with realistic things. Everett Burrell's visual effects are some of film's finest ever with believable wounds and strange creature enhancements. Composer Javier Navarrete's score astounds me every time I hear his haunting melodies that create a magical fantasy world with his mystic sounds. I could listen to Pan's Labyrinth's score on its own, it's that wondrous.
Lala Huete and Rocío Redondo's costume design is phenomenal with realistic war uniforms to inspired creature outfits. The make-up for The Fawn and the Pale Man is truly outstanding work from artists José Quetglás, Montse Ribé, and David Martí.
In conclusion, Pan's Labyrinth is one of cinema's greatest achievements with sterling craftsmanship, horrifying practical creatures, poignant war commentary, and emotional childlike wonder like few could genuinely understand like Guillermo. I simply adore Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.
A delightfully atmospheric adventure into the occult with Scooby-Doo!
Director Jim Stenstrum's animated comedic horror mystery Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost (1999) is such a pleasant and nostalgic experience to revisit. I've always loved seeing the charming New England backdrop of Massachusetts, creepy nighttime witchcraft, and hilarious food stuffing of Shaggy and Scooby-Doo chowing down. Witch's Ghost still feels spooky with real Fall vibes of leaves falling and chilly winds blowing against the Autumn moonlight. Jim Stenstrum's atmospheric direction is cool and playful with a neat haunting tone. He did a fantastic job directing Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost just like Zombie Island. Witch's Ghost is a wonderful family film and one of the best Scooby-Doo movies.
I love Rick Copp and David A. Goodman's excellent writing for Witch's Ghost as it simultaneously defends wiccans, represents Goths, condemns witch hunts, and explains witchcraft. From the increasing witch encounters to other magical scares, Witch's Ghost provides plenty of frightening moments for families. It's just spooky enough to scare children and delight every teenager and adult watching with them. I also like the critic of greedy capitalism with The Mayor's money hungry character as voiced by the jovial Neil Ross. Tim Curry's mysterious and wicked voice acting for The Witch's Ghost's occult obsessed horror writer Ben Ravencroft. He's a fun combination of H.P. Lovecraft and Stephen King. Curry's voice lends a formidable gravitas and mystique to Witch's Ghost whether he is shouting invocations or speaking in warm invitation. Tress MacNeille's voice for Sarah Ravencroft is powerful and intimidating.
Scott Innes voices the leads with a quirky exuberance as Shaggy Rogers and the perpetually afraid Scooby-Doo. His gluttonous hunger and whimsical playfulness is great as Shaggy and Scooby. Mary Kay Bergman is incredulous and incredible as Daphne Blake, while Frank Welker's steadfast Fred Jones is still funny. B. J. Ward is wondrous as the scared and intellectual Velma Dinkley. Her excitable love of Tim Curry's Ben Ravencroft is cute.
Mook's Japanese animation looks as resplendent for Witch's Ghost as it did for Zombie Island. This film looks so much better than the old 80's Scooby-Doo, Where Are You! Cartoons. Everything from Fall leaves blowing in the wind to the green spellcasting effects look remarkable. The giant turkey and sentient pumpkins are pretty fun.
The character designs are fabulous, especially for my favorite animated Goths with their aesthetic for The Hex Girls. I adore The Hex Girls. They're a cool, alluring depiction of Goths and sweet Scooby-Doo characters. I have always been smitten with Jennifer Hale's sultry and ethereal voice for The Hex Girl Thorn. Her dreamy singing vocals and wicked wiccan guitar playing is stellar. Hale's speaking voice for Thorn has this effervescent quality that's so soothing to hear. Kimberly Brooks is friendly and fun as The Hex Girl Luna. Her playing and backup vocals are pleasant. Jane Wiedlin is sly and playful as The Hex Girl Dusk. Her drumming and backup vocals are creative.
Editor Rick Hinson cuts so cleanly and briskly for a fast pace, while keeping an eerie atmospheric vibe. I wish more movies were only 70 minutes long with concise storytelling. Composer Louis Febre crafts these moody symphonic passages that actually sound eerie. How can you not enjoy the exquisite Goth rock of The Hex Girls? I could listen to an entire album of The Hex Girls' brand of Gothic alternative rock with their dreamy voices and spooky guitar riffs. I highly recommend just listening to The Hex Girls songs from the Witch's Ghost soundtrack.
In conclusion, Scooby-Doo! and the Witch's Ghost always entertains me and sparks my imagination with cool witchcraft and sweet humor.
A mysterious and touching modern vampire film.
Guillermo Del Toro's directorial debut is a fantastic Mexican indie horror drama called Cronos (1993), which attempts to reinvent the vampire horror genre. Del Toro's direction feels mature and intelligent for a first time feature director. Cronos has a magical quality and a constantly eerie atmosphere, where some impending tragedy feels imminent. He balances strange body horror with quirky humor, so that Cronos never drags and keeps moving steadily for a pleasant 94 minutes. The practical effects are grotesque and magnificent in design. Everything looks real. Cronos is thoroughly entertaining and an engrossing picture into the concepts of vampirism.
Guillermo Del Toro's writing for Cronos has elements of the body horror of David Cronenberg's Videodrome and Kafka's The Metamorphosis, alongside the vampiric drama of yearning to live youthfully forever of Tony Scott's The Hunger. You get the desire for eternal life as well as the bloody cost of immortality. For Del Toro, his vampires are mysterious, natural, and emotional in a gripping way. Cronos initially pulls you in with the mystery of what Cronos is and how its mechanical vampirism works, then you are enthralled by the story of a man coming to terms with his mortality.
Federico Luppi is fantastic as the elderly man Jesus Gris, an obvious Jesus Christ metaphor with his sacrificial decision and everything. Luppi gives such an earnest realism to his Jesus character. He's just curious about the Cronos device, then becomes increasingly obsessed or addicted to his sudden youthfulness. Indeed, the pained and uncertain stares from his granddaughter Aurora, played by a sweet and quiet child actress Tamara Shanath, demonstrate her traumatizing horror and morbid fascination with her grandfather's new addiction that she enables on one level. Margarita Isabel is interesting as Jesus' wife Mercedes, who finds a new appreciation for her love with his renewed vigor.
Ron Perlman is excellent and hilarious as the brutish villain Angel de la Guardia, as his Spanish speaking lines are well done, but it's his goofy and quirky demeanor as this strange man that's so fun. Perlman is intimidating and violent, but also is funny as Angel with his penchant for desiring a new nose through plastic surgery. You see Perlman develop his sinister hulking menace as an actor within Cronos. Claudio Book is captivating as the old man De La Guardia with his insatiable lust for life. I liked Mario Iván Martínez' creepy Alchemist and the hilariously nonchalant performance from Daniel Giménez Cacho as Tito the mortician.
Editor Raúl Dávalos cuts sleekly from someone holding Cronos to within the golden vessel holding an ancient insect. I love the practical effects of the clockwork room wherein Cronos dwells. Guillermo Navarro's cinematography uses mostly these striking wide shots to capture the spaces between people and the empty world of Cronos.
Tolita Figueroa's production design utilizes industrial clockwork sets for Cronos' golden world and warm browns and tans for the real world of Jesus. Brigitte Broch's art direction is stunning with zombified rotting faces for the decaying vampires and writhing bugs throughout Cronos. M. Carrajal's make-up is timeless. Real effects with layered make-up to show aged skin or new flesh. All hail the new flesh. The golden Cronos device itself is a really cool prop too. Genoveva Petitpierre's costumes look so natural and intriguing at the same time. It's like 90's fashion, but with a natural warmth to them.
Composer Javier Álvarez' score for Cronos is surprisingly bright, loving, and warm in tone. His hauntingly beautiful melodies and main theme for Cronos sweep you away to another world. I found his music ethereal and heartfelt.
In all, Cronos is worth seeking out as Guillermo Del Toro's first film remains one of his finest.
May Brandon Lee's legacy as The Crow live on forever.
Greek-Australian director Alex Proyas' supernatural dark fantasy The Crow (1994) remains one of my all time favorite films with Proyas' Gothic atmosphere, striking bleak visuals, and sensitive storytelling. Proyas directs each dramatic scene with a somber, genuine tone and clear understanding of how serious these emotions are for his main character Eric Draven. Proyas' action sequences are fascinating and enthralling as bullets blast into The Crow, only to miraculously heal within his dark avenger. Alex Proyas also directed Dark City, but The Crow will always be my favorite cult classic. The Crow provides a cathartic emotional release ending about letting go of your grief and moving on that still got me tearing up and crying.
The Crow feels relatable within its depiction of depression, fatalism, nihilism, and sentimentalism feels so realistic for what's essentially a superhero movie with a gritty antihero like Batman or V for Vendetta. Proyas brings The Crow's grim world of pain and frightening chaos to life with a mesmerizing Gothic aesthetic that I love. The Crow can be too dark for some I'm sure, but it is thoroughly entertaining and a thoughtful picture that takes itself seriously to endear itself to Goths everywhere forevermore.
The Crow's American author James O'Barr wrote his seminal graphic novel The Crow after his wife was tragically killed by a drunk driver and he felt completely powerless and an abject hopelessness. So, O'Barr wrote The Crow as a kind of coping mechanism for dealing with his profound grief and righteous indignation over having been unable to save his love's life. This sentiment of inner pain and absolute rage is prevalent throughout the movie The Crow. You feel how lonely, confused, anguished, and furious Eric Draven is, like James O'Barr, all through Brandon Lee's impeccable dramatic acting. It's amazing that they managed to finish The Crow with a stunt double as you cannot even tell any scene isn't Lee after he was accidentally shot while filming The Crow.
Brandon Lee delivers these longing stares in memory of Eric Draven's fiance Shelly. I love all his quiet pauses in his sentences to reflect on his feelings of guilt that turn into a violent anger at his enemies who brutally beat, raped, and murdered Shelly. Brandon Lee could have given us many more great roles, but at least we got to see him portray Eric Draven with a poignant compassion and empathy in The Crow before his tragic death. Truly a shame both Brandon Lee and his father died so young. They were promising actors and martial artists who left their mark on the world.
Even if Lee had not died, his performance as Draven would be legendary as he's totally heartfelt, gentle, sensitive, romantic, cool, whimsical, and vicious in his devastating final role. You need look no further than Heath Ledger's portrayal of The Joker in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight to see Brandon Lee's impact. From Ledger's deeper distinct voice, messy face make-up, dark taunts, to a few actual phrases Heath uses that Brandon says as Eric Draven.
Rochelle Davis is excellent and adorable as the feisty young girl Sarah, who is left to pick up the pieces after Eric and Shelly's murder. She's brave, sympathetic, and emotionally engaging in every scene. Rochelle Davis understood how serious the tone of The Crow should feel. Anna Levine is earnest as Sarah's troubled mother Darla. Ernie Hudson is fantastic as Sergeant Albrecht in The Crow. His flippant attitude is funny, while also giving a standoffish police detective vibe that works well with the earnest characters and brutal villains. Sofia Shinas is lovely as the dearly departed Shelly Webster with her forlorn expressions and mesmerizing blue eyes. Her romantic chemistry with Brandon Lee is palpable.
Michael Wincott is phenomenal as the scenery chewing villain Top Dollar. His strange line delivery, distinct deep voice, and manic zeal as Top Dollar are undeniably entertaining. Wincott was the perfect casting choice for an eccentric antagonist like Top Dollar. Bai Ling is so gorgeous and effervescent as the enigmatic enchantress Myca in The Crow. Her every line is hypnotizing like her stunning glares. I love how every enemy is dispatched in a poetic way referencing their own previous violent actions.
David Patrick Kelly's sinister arsonist leader T-Bird is so eerie and deranged with a penchant for flame related violence. Angel David's raving idiot arsonist Skank is very funny. Laurence Mason is so disturbing as the knife wielding rapist, murderer, and arsonist Tin Tin. Michael Massee's sick rapist Funboy is thoroughly unpleasant and unnerving to watch during Shelly's rape scene. Tony Todd, of Candyman fame, is great as the imposing Grange. Jon Polito's indignant pawn shop owner Gideon is outstanding casting as only Polito could play such an arrogant jerk. Lastly, Marco Rodríguez really makes you hate his police investigator Torres with his pompous disposition.
Screenplay writers David J. Schow and John Shirley provide funny black comedy jokes, creative action scenarios, and tender dialogue that expands James O'Barr's beautiful original lines. Editors Dov Hoenig and M. Scott Smith uses these surreal quick cuts for the memories flashing by in Eric Draven's mind to startling effectiveness. The Crow's rapid fire cuts keep the pace fast for 102 minutes that feel like nothing.
Polish Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski finds some of cinema's greatest shots and most creative framing within The Crow. From Eric Draven passionately shredding a guitar solo, that Brandon Lee actually played for us, in a melancholy display on his dreary rooftop to the flaming crow symbol burning into our minds forever. I love all the flying crow segments as the camera pans and sweeps across the mini models of this destroyed city. You can see The Crow's influence from how Christopher Nolan recreated a blazing bat insignia for The Dark Knight Rises or Joker interrupted the criminal gang leader's meeting with a tongue in cheek threat and offer. Wolski really outdid himself for the strange, eerie, and captivating cinematography of The Crow.
Alex McDowell's production design is very cool and stylish for The Crow. You get all these neat practical effects like the ever flaming cityscape alongside Andrew Mason's killer visual effects of the crow flying or bullet wounds healing. Simon Murton and Geoffrey S. Grimsman's art direction is interesting from Eric Draven rising from the grave to the burning crow design. Every visual in The Crow is memorable and fun with that darker aesthetic. Marthe Pineau and William Barclay's set decoration looks like an industrial wasteland within every room of this desolate city.
Composer Graeme Revell wrote beautiful melodies with cool musical ideas throughout The Crow. I have to mention the amazing soundtrack to The Crow that features numerous alternative rock, grunge, industrial metal, groove metal, and dream pop groups from the early 1990's that really sets the sullen and hectic mood of The Crow.
The Crow certainly looks like the early 90's with Gothic costumes by Arianne Phillips, Pauline White-Kassulke, and Amy Lilley. These three ladies brought Eric Draven's iconic black leather pants, black combat boots, wavy black hair design, and ripped black long sleeve shirt to life with a gritty Goth aesthetic. I love the pale white face paint and black tear line make-up from artists Sharon Ilson and Herita Jones. They made Brandon Lee look just like the comic book version.
All I can say is watch The Crow and may Brandon Lee rest in peace.