Written and Directed by Guillermo del Toro (William of the Bull)
Starring Federico Luppi, Ron Perlman, and Claudio Brook
Length: 1 hr 34 min
Rated R for horror violence and language
Available on HuluPlus (Criterion Collection)
Guillermo del Toro said in an interview for his feature debut Cronos that the worst thing you can do to a filmmaker is give him everything he wants–that when a director is limited in any way, he is forced to become creative and breathe life into his story without expensive special effects or A-list actors. Now Del Toro has proven himself wrong with this summer’s $200 million Pacific Rim. But not entirely wrong. I think great directors can make great movies on any budget, and del Toro is certainly a great director. One thing is sure though–the micro budget Cronos is a much more engaging film, and one of the best del Toro has ever made.
The story concerns Jesus Gris, an elderly Spanish shop owner and his mute granddaughter Mercedes. One day Jesus discovers a curious object while looking around in his antiques store–a golden scarab with strange moving mechanisms. It turns out the scarab has dark magical powers, but I won’t tell you what they are because it would ruin the fun. I will only say that it’s an original take on an classic legend. As for the scarab itself, there is something alive inside it that has festered for years. I won’t describe this either, but not for spoiler reasons–it’s just so bizarre that I can’t find words for it.
Throughout the film Del Toro shows his skill for making things disgusting but in a fascinating way. He has a unique ability to take stories about the grotesque and weave them into something very human, real, and profound. There’s no denying that it is a very dark tale, filled with themes of evil and suffering. In the end though, Cronos is about relationships, specifically the love Jesus has for his granddaughter, and how far he would go to keep her safe. It works perfectly, both as as a human drama and as a dark fairy tale, like del Toro’s later and more famous work Pan’s Labyrinth. If you enjoyed that one, be sure to catch Cronos in the HuluPlus Criterion Collection.
3 1/2 stars out of 4