Writer/Director: Guillermo del Toro
Running time: 94 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18
USA Release date: 16th September 1994
Watched on Sky+ Monday 29th August 2011.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I must admit to being a bit of a fan of the work of Guillermo del Toro, and so, in an effort to see more of his work I’m looking at a couple of his earlier films. We have this one today and later ‘The Devil’s Backbone’ will be viewed and reviewed in, what I’m calling my mini ‘del Toro Fest’. And so to part one, Cronos, this is an interesting horror film with all the visual style you would expect from a del Toro film. I should warn those who are not fans of subtitles that, although there is some English dialogue, most of it is in Spanish… with the dreaded subtitles. I found a lot more humour than I expected, but also a very dark side to the story. I will tell you more after this brief summary.
I guess the best way to describe how the Cronos device came into being is to quote from the opening sequence of the film (If you consider this a spoiler then please feel free to skip the next paragraph):
“In 1536, fleeing from the Inquisition, the alchemist Uberto Fulcanelli disembarked in Veracruz, Mexico. Appointed official watchmaker to the Viceroy, Fulcanelli was determined to perfect an invention which would provide him with the key to eternal life. He was to name it... the Cronos device. 400 years later, one night in 1937, part of the vault in a building collapsed. Among the victims was a man of strange skin, the colour of marble in moonlight. His chest mortally pierced, his last words... Suo tempore. This was the alchemist.”
Jesus Gris runs a small antiques shop in Mexico. His young granddaughter Aurora quite often helps out and the pair have a strong bond between them. One day a man comes in, checking out some of the small statues, archangels, he has in the store. He pays particular attention to one of them before leaving. Later, when insects begin to come from the statue, Jesus investigates and finds a gold clockwork device in the base, which he keeps. The next day another man, Angel de la Guardia turns up and buys the statue. He is buying it for his rich uncle, Deiter de la Guardia, who has some terminal disease, but also has a document describing how to use the Cronos, the device Jesus has hidden. That evening Jesus is cleaning the device when he activates it and it attaches itself to his hand. He rips it off, but it’s too late, he is now under the spell of the device and it will lead him down a path of pain and despair. I will not say any more, but needless to say, when de la Guardia discovers Jesus has the device, things get a bit feisty.
I love the visual style del Toro brings to his films, they are always beautifully lit and everything about the production has a certain quality to it. I also liked the music by Javier Álvarez, it fitted perfectly. Good performances all round, particularly from Federico Luppi; I thought he did a great job as Jesus Gris. A very young looking Ron Perlman played Angel de la Guardia and Claudio Brook was his uncle Dieter de la Guardia. Margarita Isabel was Jesus wife, Mercedes and Tamara Shanath did a great job as his granddaughter Aurora.
There are many things to like about this film, including the visual style, the cinematography, the music and the performances, but I felt there was something lacking. Although I did enjoy it, I did find the narrative a little weak, I felt it lacked a little spice, strange, considering its origins. Even so, it did entertain me and it did add a nice twist to an established horror sub-genre (no clues here), and so… Recommended.
My Score: 7.8/10.
IMDb Score: 6.8/10 (based on 7,842 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90/100 (based on 41 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
[discussing why Deiter wants the Cronos]
Jesus Gris: He thinks it will help him live longer.
Angel de la Guardia: [laughs] That f*cker does nothing but shit and piss all day, and he wants do live longer?