Saturday, November 5, 2016

Cronos


   "He is not some kind of all-powerful Lestat vampire, he's also not the kind of vampire who can sparkle and stop cars- he's the saddest character in the movie." said Del Toro in one of the interviews I watched from the bonus features on the Criterion Blu Ray release of the movie. It's very plain that Del Toro has a penchant for subverting the standard approach to monsters, villains, and the supernatural. The main protagonist in Cronos is a kindly old antique dealer named Jesus Gris, so obviously he's not gonna fare too well in a Del Toro movie. Senor Gris is in for a very nasty time.

   The movie can be unnerving and a bit disturbing, but it also has a strong sense of humor and eccentricity. Del Toro also talks about how there is a family at the core of every one of his movies, "Even in Blade II-" he points out. He's definitely not wrong, and the foundation of that can be seen in Cronos. Both the protagonists and antagonists each have a family unit. Jesus Gris and his wife, raise their adorable granddaughter Aurora who maybe has one line in the entire movie. On the opposite end of things is the villain, De La Guardia and his nephew, Angel- played by the always excellent Ron Perlman. The power struggle at the core of the movie affects both family units in a wholly destructive way.

   It's a fairy tale-esque movie, dealing with dark, brooding, fantasy elements, but also the requisite pairing of a Gepetto-like protagonist, and his plucky child sidekick. I realize I'm simplifying it, but these things are worth pointing out. Cronos bucks the convention that all vampire movies must follow the same tired formula. Incidentally, this isn't even the only vampire movie Del Toro's ever made, and neither of them were formulaic in the slightest. Cronos, however, revolves around a fantastical macguffin, like a mechanical bloodthirsty insect. Activating it yields gruesome results to whoever is holding it, but worse than that... they become a vampire.

   Not quite being bitten on the neck, but something that seems just as old and sinister. Del Toro spun a fresh take on a worn out genre, and introducing the macabre little device was brilliant. Cronos is dark, but not bleak. It's sad, but not depressing. It's consistently engaging, colorful, and creative. It's certainly not for everyone, but I can't imagine who wouldn't at least appreciate Cronos. It's all the more impressive when you realize its Del Toro's first feature length movie. It has aged rather well, and I'd have never guessed this was a freshman effort. The movie unfolds confidently and stylishly. We can see here the flourishes and styles that would go on to greater notice in movies like Pan's Labyrinth and Crimson Peak.

   The story is simple and straightforward, and similarly, the plotting is lean and effective. The acting from the whole cast was pretty great. From Frederico Luppi as Gris, to Claudio Brook as the villain, all the leads bring something unique to the table. From the inner mechanical workings of the vampiric device, to the depths Gris ends up sinking to in order to get blood, the movie is full of stunning, shocking, and even repulsive visuals. If you're a fan of the director but have yet to check this one out, you owe it to yourself to have a movie night with Cronos as the main attraction.

   It's a nasty, fantastical, Gothic, and gross little vampire flick- with a twist. I'm sure there's much more that could be said about the movie, but I'm not trying to write a dissertation here. Just a thorough recommendation. Cronos is a horror movie in only the loosest definitions of the genre. It's a good vs. evil fairy tale set in then-modern day Mexico, but there will be blood. Lots of blood and body horror. Yet, the movie is never scary as much as it is spooky, atmospheric, unnerving, and ultimately... tragic. Don't watch it expecting to be scared, because it's simply not that kind of movie. It's just well made Gothic fantasy. Thankfully, this is a genre that Del Toro sticks to very closely.

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