I was first introduced to Guillermo del Toro‘s work when I saw El espinazo del diablo (The Devil’s Backbone) during its first release in the United States, and that’s still my favorite film by him. And while I’ve seen most of his films since then, I had never seen Cronos (his first) before this weekend. It was certainly interesting…and gruesome, and it seemed to have been influenced by the work of David Cronenberg: artsy B imagery, corrupting technology, gore, organic machinery, bugs, and so on.
The story centers around Jesús Gris, an antiques dealer who finds a strange object in the base of one the statues in his shop. The thing—kind of a metallic beetle—grabs onto Gris’ hand and injects him with some sort of fluid. It turns out that this device brings eternal life…but also a vampiric lust for blood. So at first, Gris is feeling pretty good. The elderly man’s wrinkles start to clear up, he has more energy, and he’s got “that feeling” again, if you know what I mean. But then Angel, a brutish English speaker, comes calling. (By the way, Angel is played by Ron Perlman, who is one of my favorite genre actors.)
Angel’s uncle Dieter de la Guardia has been ruthlessly trying to track down the Cronos device (beetle thing) for years. It turns out that it was invented by an alchemist in the 1500s and actually has an operation manual, which de la Guardia owns. His method for going after the device is sending his nephew Angel to take it by force. And even though Angel is a good brute, he doesn’t like doing this work for his uncle, a man living a Howard-Hughes-esque existence in a penthouse above his Mexico-based factory, because he’d like the old man to die and pass along his wealth. But Angel goes about his business anyway. However, he finds Gris isn’t a pushover…even when he’s pushed over a cliff.
Cronos isn’t for the faint, even if it does include some of the fantasy elements that made del Toro’s El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labrynth) such a hit with everyone when it came out. Expect some squirming in your seat as you watch Gris lick blood off the floor, get poked up by a metal beetle, tear skin off, and be introduced to Angel’s lead pipe.