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Guillermo del Toro's bizarre horror film about an old man who becomes a vampiric creature.

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Del Toro's first descent into the visually fantastic unknown.

  • Dec 28, 2010
*** out of ****

Watching "Cronos" made me realize that I need to re-watch every single Guillermo Del Toro film as soon as possible. It also made me realize just why I love the guy so much. "Cronos" is Guillermo Del Toro's first feature, and until now, has not been accessible to most U.S. DVD Rental Services. But thanks to the Criterion Collection, "Cronos" can be enjoyed by even more people. I'm glad that I finally got around to watching the thing. So let's get down to business. "Cronos" is not simply a tale of horrific obsession. It is also a story of immortality, mortality, or even life in general. Del Toro (also the writer of this fantastic film, no doubt) puts an aging man in a dangerous situation, and he successfully mixes elements of vampire-film, horror-film, and drama-film into one entertaining package. And "Cronos" is quite the package. Even if it's a horror-drama at heart, "Cronos" is strangely charming. I don't know why, but there's something "fun" about watching it. Perhaps it's because this is a seldom seen horror film that never goes to extremes in its depictions. It never succumbs to clichés. And it's visually inspiring in perhaps a way that only Guillermo Del Toro can deliver. But why should you watch it? Well, for the all the same reasons you would watch any Del Toro film, actually. Well, aside from the flawless story, which "Cronos" just doesn't have. But something in my gut tells me that "Cronos" is not purely about the story, and Del Toro chooses to tell half of it through visual design. He has said that he likes to do this because pictures can tell stories, and Del Toro is indeed the sophisticated type when it comes to this. He is a unique man with savage wit and style, and "Cronos" documents where it all began. Del Toro would go on to make bigger and better films soon enough, although "Cronos" marked the arrival of a new talent. It is not the man's best picture, although it's a lush painting anyways. I recommend it to those who want to see simple art for what it is; inoffensive, dark, and rich with imagery. "Cronos" is not art built to shock; it is art meant to amaze. And perhaps it does amaze, because Del Toro is good at that. And despite its imperfection, this film was entertaining, beautifully shot, and mesmerizing. Its hypnotic style is not to me missed.

"Cronos" is simple story-telling compared to the other complex stuff that Del Toro has come up with. Needless to say, it's still a good story, and it needs to be heard. "Cronos" tells the tale of an aging antique-salesman named Jesús who comes across a mysterious mechanical device within one of his statues. He grabs it quickly before its seeker sends one of his henchmen out to retrieve it, although this begins a battle for the device and one man's life. Jesús becomes obsessed with the device, and allows it to pierce into his skin (which is essentially what it does). Whenever he is to do this, he is granted immortality. His wife notices his change in age, although thinks nothing of it initially. But soon, it becomes quite a problem. A man named Dieter de la Guardia is the former seeker of the device, as he too is dying. Either way, whoever doesn't end up with the device will end up dead. Jesús is addicted to the scarab-like device as like a drug; he goes nearly crazy when he cannot get an injection. However, many "side-effects" of the device come up, one of them being Jesús' new-found thirst for blood. The film essentially hopes to follow him on his attempts to survive this terrible new addiction, and not get bested by Guardia. As you can see, it's a simple story. Some may criticize it for that. And the film doesn't always have a clear purpose. Some will say that it's not scary; some will say it lacks the ability to truly disgust. I do not think it's intended to be a truly "disturbing" sort of film, but it is meant to show fear in the element of obsession. It's a simple yet complex tale, and I had to appreciate it. After all, "Cronos" HAS a story-even if that story isn't completely devoid of its flaws. Del Toro has the start of something new and good here, and he completes it as well as he begins it. Take the trip if only for the dark, human depiction of fairy-tale madness.

Federico Luppi, a frequent collaborator of Del Toro's, stars in the leading role of "Cronos". He plays Jesús, the aging antique-shop owner who happens upon a new kind of obsession. Luppi makes the character easy to identify with, and he's interesting to follow. The character of Jesús certainly helps to make the story more endurable, and Luppi's performance is as endearing as it is frighteningly human. Ron Perlman also stars as a tough-but-dimwitted sort of "side-kick" to the film's antagonist. And lastly, the antagonist is played by Claudio Brook. I think that like most of Del Toro's films, the production is nearly character-driven. When Del Toro can't develop as good as a plot as "Pan's Labyrinth", this is what he does as his last resort; create characters that we either detest or identify with. Maybe he's not the best at creating quirky, unforgettable characters, but then again very few are. It's just a rare thing to see a visual artist have his film displaying much talent from both ends of the camera, respectively.

"Cronos" boasts absolutely intriguing visuals. Del Toro gets around without using much CG, and creates his work purely out of spectacle. The Cronos Device itself seems carefully designed, and as with all of his works, there is visual effort around every corner. All you need to do is look at this darned film to know how beautifully conceived it is. Aside from the production values, which are extremely awesome, the film boasts incredible cinematography. While the angles are basic, they always made me interested regardless. And with a solid score to settle things right, it's obvious how good Del Toro wanted his film to feel and look good. And everything paid off in the end, since "Cronos" is indeed as entertaining as Del Toro envisioned it being. It's so darned intriguing that I couldn't take my eyes off it, and yes, it could be called art. Most of Del Toro's directorial films are. And that is because art can come in many forms, and each quality of a film can add up to it. Visual presentation is one thing, and Del Toro has mastered it. And he has even before mastered story-telling, although he seems to know when people want "Hellboy" and when people want "Pan's Labyrinth", when speaking of narrative quality. He knows his audience, and that's something that I envy about him; his unfailing ability to do what he loves with ease.

By all means, there is a lot to admire here. The visual style, the music, the performances, and even Del Toro's directing. I admired all of these things because each one felt stunning in its quality. Del Toro is a director who wants to amaze people with what he can do, mostly without CG. I have known him for creating visual finesse out of the strangest things, and favoring make-up effects over CGI. I admire that a lot about Del Toro. It says a lot about a filmmaker when he almost says no to CGI in general. I am aware that Del Toro is not against Computer Generated Imagery, but the most creative stuff I've seen out of him is not generated by the computer; it is generated by the brain. It takes an inventive man to tackle inventive films, and if that's what you need, call Del Toro. He's the man for the time and place. I am convinced that while not everything out of him will be awesome, everything that Del Toro directs will be worth seeing. I like my directors daring, educated, and visually intelligent. Del Toro is all of these things. Perhaps that is why to this day, he is still one of the most visually accomplished men in all of Hollywood, or cinema in general. And he deserves whatever praise he has gotten, to the core. I will support him every chance that I get.

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January 12, 2011
Great review!
December 30, 2010
Another excellent review
December 31, 2010
Thank you.
December 29, 2010
Another wonderful "Cronos" review. Well done!
December 29, 2010
December 29, 2010
It is funny since I reviewed the Criterion set a week or so ago. This is one of my faves from Del Toro, yes it was more raw than any of his other films but it was the thing that made it real good. Stellar review!
December 29, 2010
Thanks. I too own the Criterion Release (I actually bought it on the release day without ever seeing the film since before it was hard to acquire, but I bought it assuming I would like it...and what do you know, I did). "Pan's Labyrinth" is still my favorite Del Toro film, and it's also my current favorite film of all time.
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie



Cast: Ron Perlman
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Genre: Sci-Fi, Horror, Vampires, Fantasy
Release Date: 1993
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Guillermo del Toro
Runtime: 94 minutes
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