Horror. Worldview. Faith.

Cronos – Review

Cronos – Review

Dec 27, 2010

reviewed by hallo
directed by Guillermo del Toro, 1993

The word “vampire” is never uttered throughout the emotional and gut-wrenching directorial debut of Guillermo del Toro known as Cronos.  Yet, there are few vampire movies better than this.

Several elements of the film could cause a careless viewer to become irritated and even bored.  For example, the action is deliberate and slow-moving.  There is a fairly random mixture of English subtitles for the Spanish dialogue and spoken English, often times within the same conversation.  The film is much more interested in presenting a sympathetic victim in Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi) and his relationship with his granddaughter than it is falling prey to the temptation of presenting the epic, romantic version of vampirism that we have come to expect.  Finally, the end is not triumphant for any party and leaves the viewer with a heavy, melancholy feeling.

Of course, all of those things can also be why the film excels in so many ways, and for this reviewer, beautifully captures the true tension of vampirism; is this a blessing or a curse?  Del Toro rightly examines how difficult it is for one who is deeply thrust in their own lust for youth, health, and renewed energy to appreciate the danger associated with such a quest when that journey involves flirting with evil.  Even the young and innocent granddaughter, Aurora, was able to discern the destructive nature of the cronos device.  Interestingly, Jesus Gris never sought immortality.  He simply wanted to see a glimmer in his wife’s eye one more time, he wanted to feel more alive and energetic, and he wanted to feel confident enough to unbutton the top buttons of his shirt when going out in public.   The cronos device offered that.  And we are all susceptible to it.

The story goes that a 16th century alchemist was determined to find the secret to eternal life.  His solution was the creation of the cronos device, a golden, scarab looking device that housed a insect which would suck the blood from its victim, providing continued life for the insect and, after the immediate sensation of pain, would provide the victim with a wonderful and thrilling feeling of youth and vigor.  Unfortunately, that feeling came with two requirements:  the eating of human blood and the continued reliance on the cronos device.

The device finds its way into Jesus Gris’ antique shop where he and Aurora discover its power.  However, there is another player in town, De La Guardia, who has been searching for the cronos device for years because of his weak health.  He dispatches his nephew, Angel (wonderfully portrayed by Ron Perlman) to find the device at Gris’ shop.  From there, it is a struggle between Gris, who is determined to hold on to the device, and La Guardia, who needs it to stay alive.

Cronos is a film all about dependence, and perhaps one could argue, slavery.  As the great musician Dave Mustaine once said, “I’ve seen the man use the needle, seen the needle use the man.”  In all avenues of the film the viewer is confronted with dependent relationships.  The nephew is in “slavery” to his uncle’s bidding.  The granddaughter is dependent on her grandfather.  Jesus is dependent on the cronos device.  The insect inside the device is dependent on Jesus.  And so on.  As many great horror movies will depict, the allure of the “dark side” is not so appealing once you find yourself trapped inside its web.  At the end of Cronos, Jesus is begging to be restored to how things were previously.  The cost of immortality is just too great.

The film was a huge success in Mexico and certainly launched the brilliant career of del Toro.  His ability to blend the subtle with the extravagant is highlighted in this film as is his remarkable ability to touch the heart; some of the scenes between Gris and Aurora are truly touching.  He would use Luppi again both in Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, forming a successful bond between the two.  I hold Cronos in the top 10 of my favorite vampire movies, perhaps even higher than that.  I recommend it without reservation.

Click Here to purchase Cronos

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