Cronos (1993)/Ganja & Hess (1973)/The Lost Boys (1987)

Ganja and Hess (1973)

The first thing I noticed was how different a tone this movie has. This is one of the first black horror movies and it shows right away. It is not just a reskinned white horror movie but instead reflects the real culture. The music really works for the movie as well. They use a lot of Christian spiritual songs but the recording sounds like it was made in an empty church. . That means you get all of the cool echoes and imperfections and it sounds so lonely. This is mixed in with what is presented as African music with really surreal reverb added. This reverb is used throughout and it gives a lot of moments a very eerie and otherworldly feeling. The blood is very vivid and almost artistic. They definitely go all in on showing a feeding.

The movie stars Duane Jones (who also starred in Night of the Living Dead) as Hess and he really should have been something bigger. He is such a commanding character here and a calming presence at times. His performance is so real and raw that he instantly commands any scene he is in. Marlene Clark plays Ganja and she is brassy and instantly likable. She is a force of nature from word one. Writer/Director Bill Gunn plays an absolute nutcase who is disturbing in a very subdued and unnerving way. There is also a preacher played by Sam Waymon, not your usual pastor in a horror movie. He is reasonable and empathetic and so charismatic.

Overall, I really liked the movie. It certainly has some production flaws but it leans into those flaws and makes them into strengths. The story feels different from other vampire stories that I have seen though some familiar elements are there.

The Lost Boys (1987)

The first thing I noticed was the interesting setting and character design of the movie. I guess it is supposed to be a tourist town in the mid-Eighties with a mashup of Goth, Punk, and New Wave styles with a little seaside mixed in. It makes it feel like the movie is taking place in a post-apocalyptic future. I really liked the special effects of the movie. The practical special effects are really fun and often really destructive. Of course, it is the Eighties so there is a metric ton of dry ice. The blood effects are really well done (apparently they put glitter in the blood). I always love seeing different takes on vampiric powers. This movie had some interesting takes on what a vampire is and I loved it. It is somewhat similar to Fright Night but also had some curveballs in there. The soundtrack is strong in this movie with a lot of great rock songs.

The cast is huge for the Eighties, some who went on to big careers and some who seemed to disappear with the turning of the decade. The movie stars Corey Haim and Jason Patric as two kids whose family just moved into town. They run afoul of a strange vampire biker gang headed up by Keifer Sutherland and including Alex Winter, Brooke McCarter and Billy Wirth. Jami Gertz plays the loan major female character, caught up with the gang. Haim is aided by two strange brothers played by Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander. Sutherland is definitely a stand out as he plays a mix of a smirking hooligan and a cult leader. Haim is a plucky hero who is kind of funny and definitely likable. Feldman is totally weird and I immediately loved his character. Patric plays his character as too cool but I loved his vulnerability.

Overall, I really liked this movie for being a goofball horror movie. The cast is fantastic for what this movie needed to be. It was not very scary at all but it had a lot of great horror elements and a killer aesthetic. I recommend it.

Cronos (1993)

The first thing I noticed was the great visuals of Guillermo del Toro. He is a master at creating spooky and otherworldly imagery, sometimes when something is supposed to be mundane. The movie has a lot to do with clockwork. Clockwork and machinery combined with biology can be very creepy. Here it is very creepy and involves a lot of medical-related horror and bloodshed. The gore is very believable and particularly nasty-looking although it is not plentiful. There are also insects, a trademark of Del Toro’s work. The clockwork and the insects are definitely displayed similarly creating a very creepy bit of imagery. It is hard to explain and you just have to see it for yourself. Every shot is framed so well and paints an absolute picture. It creates its own mythology and style and is nothing like most vampire movies.


The movie stars Federico Luppi, an old kindly man who stumbles onto something crazy and frightening and does not know how to handle it. He is so good at playing a deeply disturbed human being, a man suffering a breakdown. There is also the awesome and charismatic Ron Perlman in this who would go on to partner with Del Toro many times. He has such a brash arrogance to him but he is impossible not to like somehow. The villain is played by Claudio Brook and he is great at being a wealthy, unfeeling man. Tamara Shanath plays the granddaughter of Luppi who is precocious and says so much without words.


Overall, I really loved this film. It felt less like a horror movie than a dark fantasy movie. It definitely had its scary and creepy moments, though. You can see Del Toro’s fingerprints all over this movie with motifs and imagery he would go on to use in other movies. This was the first full film that Del Toro made and is part of a loose trilogy of Spanish language movies he made. I definitely recommend this movie.

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