Cronos is a Mexican horror film that is likely best known for being the feature film directional debut of Guillermo del Toro. Releasing in 1993, it stars veteran Argentinean actor Federico Luppi and American actor Ron Perlman. It follows Jesús Gris (Luppi), the owner of an antique store who inadvertently comes across a strange device called the Cronos. The golden apparatus grants its holder eternal life but not for free, the price is blood.
In an opening monologue, it’s explained that the Cronos was crafted by an alchemist in 1537. Centuries pass until an old building collapses and the alchemist, who has marble-white skin, is killed when his heart is pierced by the debris.
In 1996, Jesús Gris discovers the 450 year old mechanical object inside of a hollow archangel statue. He triggers the machine which causes it to unfurl spider-like legs which grip him tightly and inject a strange fluid. It’s revealed that an ancient creature resides within, produces the liquid and feeds on the blood of the host. Gris eventually discovers his health and vigour are returning, as is his youth. His skin loses its wrinkles, his hair thickens and his sexual appetite increases. He also develops a thirst for blood. This at first disgusts him, but he eventually succumbs to the temptation. His granddaughter Aurora notices this, and begins to worry about Gris.
Meanwhile, a rich, dying businessman, has been amassing information about the device for many years. He has been searching for the archangel statue with the Cronos device. He sends his thuggish nephew Angel (Pearlman), who allows his uncle’s abuse on a daily basis for an inheritance, to purchase the archangel at the antique shop. Angel purchases it without knowing that the Cronos has been removed.
Elsewhere, Gris is confronted by Angel who murders him and pushes his car with him inside off a cliff. He later revives in an undertaker’s establishment and escapes before he can be cremated. He returns to his home where Aurora lets him in. Jesus notices that his skin burns in the presence of sunlight and sleeps in a box to avoid it. He decides to break into the residence of the dying businessman in the hope of finding answers and a way out.
At its core, Cronos is something of a romanticised retelling of a classic tale. Although, it isn’t without originality. It touches on all the notes that you’d expect in a film about eternal life. However, it does it in much more simplistic fashion. It mainly focuses on Jesús, his dwindling humanity and the moral ramifications of continuing to use the device. His relationship with Aurora and the ways in which she helps him regardless of his changing appearance is an important aspect. He’ll always be her grandfather, no matter what. In fact, Aurora only utters a single word throughout but it’s that much more impactful when she does.
The whole mythology surrounding the Cronos is very intriguing. I really liked the opening involving the alchemist. There are lots of hints towards something much grander in scale but it never fully explores it. In that regard, it does end up feeling a bit underwhelming. Also, motivations of characters at times is confusing. Jesús cares so much about Aurora and yet he constantly, selfishly places her in danger. Furthermore, Angel cares little for the whole situation and turns into some kind of Disney villain by the end. He gets everything he wants and goes after Jesús regardless.
There is some gore in Cronos but it’s minimal. The Makeup effects used to show Jesús as he deteriorates is decent though.
What I will say is that there is a lot of heart and emotion to Cronos. Jesús is completely innocent and basically gets involved in the whole thing by accident. You can tell he’s trying to do his best even if he acts naïve and makes mistakes. The ending is a sombre one but it maintains the likeability of Jesús.
Overall, Cronos is good but not great. It’s definitely worth seeing, especially if you like these types of stories.
The Final Score - 7.5/10
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