The library concludes its Movie Madness series with the debut feature of Guillermo Del Toro — which ranks as possibly his best film.
Even more than his subsequent and ultimately too horrifically tepid The Devil’s Backbone, Del Toro gives us in Cronos a horror film that Luis Bunuel might have made, had Bunuel made horror films (though it could be argued that he did in many cases). Cronos is an odd and unnervingly original film, doing something that many movies have laid claim to, but rarely achieved — it reinvents the vampire myth. And it does so in ever-surprising ways.
Cronos‘ main character — Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi), a kindly old antiques dealer — becomes a vampire when he inherits a strange, golden, partly organic clockwork scarab that latches onto him, injecting him with a fluid that makes him immortal … and imparts the other more or less traditional aspects of the vampire to him in the bargain. But that’s only part of his problem, since this alchemist’s creation is much sought after by a dying industrialist, Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook, who, incidentally, appeared in a number of Bunuel’s films), who’s seeking to stave off death while he sits in a strange warehouse-like setting surrounded by religious statues and grisly reminders of the disease that’s killing him. And so Dieter sends out his goonish nephew, Angel (Ron Perlman), to secure the scarab.
The film is beautifully crafted, and brilliantly blends horror with very black comedy, along with some amazingly sad humor and a genuinely touching relationship between Jesus and his granddaughter (Tamara Shanath), who remains devoted to him even after his transformation. Cronos is unlike any vampire flick you’ve ever seen, and should be high on any genre fan’s list. It’s also a must-see for moviegoers who think horror films are just stupid trash.
The film will be introduced by series host and coordinator Peter Loewer.
– reviewed by Ken Hanke