Cronos – 10th Anniversary Special Edition


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Rating: R

Federico Luppi as Jesús Gris
Ron Perlman as Angel de la Guardia
Claudio Brook as Dieter de la Guardia
Margarita Isabel as Mercedes Gris
Tamara Shanath as Aurora Gris
Daniel Giménez Cacho as Tito
Mario Iván Martínez as Alchemist
Juan Carlos Colombo as Funeral Director
Farnesio de Bernal as Manuelito
Luis Rodríguez as Buyer
Javier Álvarez as Bleeding Man

Special Features:
Director’s Commentary
Producer’s Commentary
The Making Of
Director’s Perspective
Photo Gallery
Art Gallery

Other Info:
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
English and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 92 Minutes

When an antiques dealer named Jesús Gris opens up an old statue, he finds a strange, gold, bug-like device inside. Little does he know that it was created hundreds of years earlier by an alchemist in order to prolong his life. When Jesus accidentally activates the device, it injects him with some sort of stinger. Jesus soon finds himself feeling younger and rejuvenated. Unfortunately, he begins craving injections from the device.

When a thug named Angel de la Guardia enters his store, Jesus learns that the man’s uncle is also looking for the device in order to become immortal. He also learns the horrible secret behind the device – it’s turning him into a sort of vampire.

Cronos is rated R for horror, violence, and language.

The Movie:
I’m not a big fan of horror movies, but I was interested in seeing Cronos simply because it was one of director Guillermo del Toro’s early films. I had the pleasure of visiting the set of Hellboy, del Toro’s upcoming film, in Prague in the summer of 2003. Believe me when I say the guy is incredibly friendly and a movie geek like you or I. Knowing he was the man behind two horror comics (Blade 2 as well as Hellboy), I was curious to learn more about his film background.

I found Cronos to be a bit of a mixed bag. It had moments of brilliance mixed in with moments of mediocrity. First of all, it’s a great looking film. The settings are appropriately creepy, the camera angles and motions are very slick, and the overall look and feel is nicely done. It’s also a very interesting twist on the classic vampire tale. Our hero, Jesus, becomes a vampire in a very roundabout way. The problems he goes through, of lusting after blood, dying and being embalmed, and generally not knowing what’s going on, are presented in a fresh and unique way. There’s even a disturbing scene where Jesus’ granddaughter puts him in her toy chest (along with some dolls) as a substitute for a coffin. It’s one of the most memorable scenes I’ve ever seen in a horror film.

That being said, the film does have its problems. It is rather slowly paced at times. The languages switch back and forth between English and Spanish, yet there are English subtitles on the screen the whole time. I wondered if I hit the caption button on the DVD remote a couple of times. The story also frequently leaves you scratching your head. It took me a long time to figure out what the heck was going on. The interaction between Ron Perlman’s character and his uncle were also a bit bizarre and far fetched. However, the oddest thing about the film is the idea that there’s an ancient bug inside the Cronos device turning people into vampires. It’s a bit much to swallow, though del Toro insists that the insect is one part of real vampire lore written by a priest in the past.

In the end, Cronos is an interesting film for fans of horror and fans of Guillermo del Toro, but it’s not a film for mainstream audiences. I was quite surprised to see that it won nine Mexican Academy Awards (including Best Picture) and Best Picture at the Cannes Film Festival. While it is a cool bit of cinema history from a fun director, I wasn’t terribly impressed by Cronos either. It did, however, show how del Toro had the promise he’s living up to today. (And as a side note, the image on the cover isn’t even in the film.)

The Extras:
This tenth anniversary DVD has a fair number of extras on it considering it’s an older film that was shot in Mexico. Here are the highlights:

Director’s Commentary – Writer/Director Guillermo del Toro provides a great commentary here. It’s one of those rare commentaries that ends up giving you a greater appreciation for the film. Del Toro goes into great detail explaining how he came up with the idea, the history of alchemy, vampires, and more. He talks about his relationship with Ron Perlman, among other things. Overall it’s worth listening to.

Producer’s Commentary – This commentary is entirely in Spanish. Since my high school Spanish isn’t up to speed, I bypassed this DVD extra.

The Making Of – This is a five minute long “making of” video featuring the star, Federico Luppi. He talks about the cast, crew, director, sets, and more. There’s a lot of behind the scenes footage here as well. It’s brief, but a nice look at the creation of Cronos.

Director’s Perspective – This is a fifteen minute video featuring writer / director Guillermo del Toro. He talks about how he got into movies, his ideas for Cronos, etc. (He actually repeats a lot of what he says in the director’s commentary.) If you don’t want to listen to the commentary, this is a nice backup. He also happens to talk a little about Hellboy if you’re a fan of that comic. For some strange reason, though, they subtitled all of his speech despite the fact that he’s speaking English and he’s perfectly understandable. I was a little baffled by it.

The Bottom Line:
Cronos is a movie more for horror fans and fans of Guillermo del Toro than for mainstream audiences. Fans of Hellboy may also want to view it to get a taste of what’s to come from del Toro.