Cronos – Guillermo Del Toro – 1993

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Jesus owns an antique shop, one of those marvelous literary devices where for any reason, by chance, some amazing relic or artifact may find it’s way into the hands of someone ordinary. Jesus finds the Cronos device an organic machine designed to extend the life of the user, but not without consequence.

Cronos is Guillermo Del Toro’s first film and it arrives with all the authority of a master. He creates a dynamic relationship between a young girl and her grandfather that makes it easy for the viewer to empathize with these characters. Not that these folks aren’t charming on their own. They are very regular people, and we never learn what happened to the girls parents, but it is apparent that her grandparents are very good guardians to her.

Jesus finds the device in the statue of an angel and before long the scorpion like probe has stuck him and begun the cycle of addiction. Del Toro makes vampire stories his with his fresh injections of clockwork and sticky insect roots. These vampires are biologically sound. It makes sense that one sheds each husk as one progresses through nutrients.

As Jesus learns the price he must pay for use of the device, a thug in the form of Ron Perlman arrives to claim the Cronos bug for his grandfather. This pair mirrors Jesus and his grandchild, but these two sots are rich and repulsive. Del Toro easily plays on the class difference in these pairs with the rich guys being condescending and cruel to Jesus.

The sub-plot with Ron Perlman has always left me a little cold. Especially in the end when his grandfather dies and he still pursues Jesus. At that point, he had won! What did he have to gain by hurting Jesus? I don’t know, but I suppose the film needed an on the roof fight scene for a climax, but it still falls a little flat.

I love the preceding scene. Jesus looks at his granddaughter, licking his lips; ready to devour her. The entire film works up to this moment. Addiction to life. Preying on the youth of others to sustain yourself. These ideas are not new to the vampire tale. But, by presenting us with such gentle and genuine characters we are quite invested, and we really don’t want to see this man eat his grandchild.

This is not a sexy film about vampires. It is an examination of the curiosity that grows within, as we get older. Do I have to go? Can I not stay here and take care of my family? As Jesus begins to turn his granddaughter makes a space for him in her room on the rooftop and makes her toy chest into a coffin where he sleeps. The cared for has become the care provider.

I revisit Cronos often for it’s beautiful design and touching moments. It is a family horror film if such a thing exists, often lingering on the roles we play in each others lives as our loved ones undergo tough transformations. The grace with which the final scene of the film is handled is a soft and subtle touch we have come to expect from Del Toro. Yes, you can live forever. No, no you should not. Your legacy is safe Jesus Gris. You gave yourself to save your family, and the light of your sacrifice lives on in their salvation.

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