Cronos, the first full-length feature film by Guillermo del Toro from 1993 is the fifth film in my 31 Movies, 31 Days challenge. I’m back outside of the United States with a second Mexican-inspired horror film in a row.
Cronos was the highest budgeted Mexican film at the time, at an estimated $1.5 million in total, and went about $500,000 over budget, a sum that was covered personally by del Toro, bringing the total cost to somewhere around $2 million. The budding Mexican director was worth the risk, and has gone on to make two of my most adored films in Pan’s Labyrinth and Pacific Rim.
Perhaps the best choice by del Toro was to scrap the idea of Ron Perlman be a Spanish speaking Mexican and instead be an expatriated American who is waiting for his uncle’s death and his chance at a nosejob. Perlman is impressive in the role, and its really no wonder he has made a great career for himself. Also, I couldn’t stop thinking that he looks remarkably like a Will Ferrell doppelganger in Cronos.
I also enjoyed the performance by lead-man and del Toro darling Federico Luppi. He went through so many transformations in the film, and was able to bring the humanity out in each one of them. It’s not every day you’re asked to go from an old antique shop owner to a vampiric zombie, but he was up to the task. From start to finish I enjoyed every bit of his screen-time. One scene especially threw me for a loop:
Cronos is unique, clever, and somewhat high-brow in comparison to most horror films. It brings a bit of gore and surreality without being too over the top. The Cronos device is a clever one, almost reminiscent of the puzzle box from Hellraiser, but distinctive in its own right. (They certainly must have been desirable, as all of the Cronos Device props were stolen after filming).
Vampire zombies are not a trope you see often in film, surprisingly, but this makes you want more. It’s no wonder that American studios tried to get the rights to make a Hollywood version of the film given the property. del Toro denied them the rights, and while I feel that Hollywood may have made a mess of it, it would have been interesting to see what they would have turned out.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Cronos from beginning to end. I felt like it lulled just before the conclusion, but really picked up at the final two encounters between protagonist and antagonists. Between the room of hanging antique angelic sculptures and a rooftop fight scene, I thought Cronos was beautifully shot, and I am somewhat surprised it didn’t catch on more in the States. Even now, with a Criterion release, it’s not a film I hear about. Cronos is definitely worth a watch, and for me, a rewatch in the future. I give it 4 severed LEGO arms out of 5.