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  Cronos Like Clockwork
Year: 1993
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, Claudio Brook, Margarita Isabel, Tamara Shanath, Daniel Giménez Cacho, Mario Iván Martínez, Farnesio de Bernal, Juan Carlos Colombo
Genre: HorrorBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Way back in the sixteenth century, an alchemist in search of the secret to eternal life developed the mysterious Cronos mechanism, a secret he kept to himself - for four centuries. It was then when he was discovered in a building collapse, pierced through the heart and the device disappeared when the authorities investigated his apartment, but never revealed to the public what horrors they found. Now, in the present day, elderly antiques dealer Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi) lives with his wife Mercedes (Margarita Isabel) and young, silent granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath) unaware of the treasure he has hidden in his shop...

After an apprenticeship of working in the special effects department, writer and director Guillermo de Toro made his debut with what would turn out to be the most expensive film to come out of Mexico up till that time. It set him on a career of fantasy and horror that quickly gained him a following, but in many ways Cronos was his most intimate work, suffering the sentimentality that still affects his later movies, but offering a variation on the vampire myth that never resorted to cliché. Which is quite some achievement, considering that the vampire myth has been a horror cliché for quite some while.

So there's no suave and sophisticated, tall, dark and handsome Counts in evening dress swooping down onto helpless young women and transforming into bats, no stakes, and only one coffin which the bloodsucker does not return to every morning. In its place is the story of Gris, sympathetically portrayed by Luppi, who grows suspicious of a "customer" hanging around his shop and taking an interest in an archangel statue. On closer examination he discovers what we know to be the Cronos device hidden inside the base of the ornament, and to his shock it attaches itself painfully to his hand.

Nothing is the same after that, and after his wife cleans up the wound, Gris, in the manner of those vampire reinventions which see the affliction as more of an addiction, finds he cannot live without daily injections from the device, and not only that, but he is catching a craving - a craving for blood. Yet he's not the only one seeking satisfaction from Cronos, as there is a dying businessman, De la Guardia (Claudio Brook) who wants it for his own, and has sent his nephew Angel (Ron Perlman, great as ever) to hunt it down. This all puts Gris in a difficult position, as the more he uncovers about the device, the deeper its hooks bite into him.

This may be offered up at a stately pace, but there's an ironic humour to the piece that is most welcome. Not only is the man who returns from the dead called Jesus, but there are details like Angel wanting a nosejob with his inheritance, which of course means he keeps getting hit in the nose much to his frustration. Blackly comic scenes include Gris at a New Year's Eve party following a man suffering a nosebleed to the bathroom, only for the blood he craves to be wiped away by another, tidy-minded patron. The relationship between Gris and Aurora is where the film is let down, a twee element that briefly pays off at the end when it seems as if he will suck her blood, but really belongs in the animated version, should such a thing ever arise. Still, Cronos was a clever contribution to the vampire genre that announced the arrival of a major new talent in the field. Music by Javier Álvarez.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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Guillermo del Toro  (1964 - )

Stylish Mexican horror director who moves between personal projects and Hollywood blockbusters. After a couple of short films, he earned international attention with unusual vampire chiller Cronos. Mimic was an artistically disappointing follow up, but he enjoyed success with vampire action sequel Blade II, spooky ghost story The Devil's Backbone, and another horror comic adaptation, Hellboy. Spanish Civil War fantasy Pan's Labyrinth was widely seen as a triumph and won three Oscars. After a long spell in production hell since Hellboy II, he returned with giant monster mash Pacific Rim and gothic chiller Crimson Peak. The Shape of Water, an unconventional horror romance, garnered him Oscars.

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