Also known as: Chronos, La invención de Cronos (alternate Mexican title)
Release Date: May 3rd, 1993 (Cannes)
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Written by: Guillermo del Toro
Music by: Javier Alvarez
Cast: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel, Tamara Shanath
Fondo de Fomento Cinematográfico, Instituto Mexicano de Cinematografía, Universidad de Guadalajara, Iguana Producciones, Ventana Films, Prime Films S.L., October Films, 92 Minutes
“That fucker does nothing but shit and piss all day, and he wants to live longer?” – Angel de la Guardia
Cronos is the film that introduced the world to the talents of one of the most sought after film directors of the last several years, Guillermo del Toro. It was also del Toro’s first feature length film, following his shorts Geometria and Doña Lupe. He also had eight unreleased shorts before those.
This film is a vampire story but not in the traditional sense. While humans become monsters that need blood to survive, it is a uniquely original take on the concept.
In Cronos, there is a device that is in the shape of a golden scarab. Within the scarab is an insect connected to a lot of clock-like gears. The mechanism attaches to a person, taking their blood but giving them youth and vitality. The human then needs to drink blood to feed himself and the machine. An antique dealer and a rich eccentric battle over the ownership of the device with the rich eccentric employing his hulking nephew (Ron Perlman) as his muscle.
The device itself seems like a respectful nod to the Lament Configuration from the Hellraiser film series. It is a tiny mechanical device imbued with supernatural power that physically hurts its possessor while giving them extraordinary gifts and eventually pain and death. I don’t know if this was intentional by del Toro, not that it even matters, but the two devices have a lot of similarities.
While del Toro had a lot of practice making a slew of short films, being that this is his first real feature, it is impressive. It is visually stunning and uncomfortably enchanting. It is a dark fantasy world but feels like it is within the boundaries of reality. It is gritty and beautiful and there is a great balance between light and dark from a visual and narrative standpoint.
The acting is pretty solid and Ron Perlman is really great in this. I kind of wish his part was a bit bigger but it established his long-time friendship and working relationship with del Toro and even though he had a lot of acting credits before this, it kind of feels like a new chapter in his career, moving on from mostly being known behind a lot of makeup as the Beast from the late 80s Beauty and the Beast television series.
I liked this motion picture quite a lot. It doesn’t have as strong of an effect as del Toro’s later pictures but it is certainly his movie and fits well alongside the others.