This highly personal take on the themes of immortality and vampirism, a first feature (1992) by Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro, may not be your cup of tea, but you have to admire the style, sincerity, and overall sense of craft even if you don't fancy the comic-book gore. A strange instrument delivering both pain and immortality, developed during the Spanish Inquisition by an alchemist, winds up in the possession of an elderly antique dealer in contemporary Mexico City, but a wealthy invalid has dispatched his goonish nephew to search for it. If this sounds a mite formulaic, del Toro incorporates enough dark camera poetry and authentic feeling (including intense familial affection) to make you periodically forget it; one of his conclusions, incidentally, is that immortality isn't all it's cracked up to be. The cast is especially fine, including onetime Bunuel regular Claudio Brook, Argentinean star Federico Luppi, U.S. actor Ron Perlman, and a highly expressive little girl (Tamara Shanath).
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