Recently I made the faux-pas of renting Cronos and watching it witha group of friends, all of us thinking we were in for a scary good time. Since the movie was directed by Guillermo Del Toro, I really did expect it to be intense. Instead, Cronos is more of a family drama in the disguise of a horror movie. The movie’s not the least bit frightening.
To enjoy Cronos then, you have to go into it knowing it’s not a scary film. It’s kind of like Park Chan-Wook’s Thirst, a vampire film that’s heavy on drama and light on actual bloodshed.
The plot involves an elderly antique merchant coming across a magic golden amulet while cleaning the inside of a hollow statue (a premise recently used in The Sorceror’s Assistant). A short time later, while inspecting the amulet, golden legs stick out of it, each with pointed ends like a scarab’s, and they jab into his palm. By pure happenstance then, the man finds himself suddenly immortal, and a vampire as well.
The villain is a man on his last legs who spends all of his time cooped up in a refurnished meat locker, having his buffoonish nephew (played by Ron Perlman, who later starred in the Hellboy franchise, also by Del Toro) go out in search of the statue that contains the amulet. Anyone who’s read H.P. Lovecraft will be reminded of his story Cool Air in the character of the dying uncle (and if you haven’t, you can read it online here, although I’ll warn you it’s pretty creepy). Perlman’s character then discovers that the old man has the amulet, and spends much of the film trying to acquire it by force.
The most interesting parts of the film involve the old man slowly acquainting himself to immortality, progressing into the flow of eternity through trial and error. What separates this from other vampire films is that the protagonist had no desire to be immortal to begin with, to the point where beforehand it even seemed he had accepted his own mortality and was living out his golden years with grace.
Guillermo Del Toro is a great filmmaker. He has developed a wonderful moving-camera style that revolves around slow and methodical movements, and the camera doesn’t seem intrusive, nor does it jerk around (like a lot of modern horror films). His style though wasn’t as prevalent in Cronos. Instead, it was a comparatively weak movie. If you haven’t seen Pan’s Labrynth or The Devil’s Backbone, see those first; those are intriguing dramas that are also pretty intense at times. Cronos is intriguing, but lacks suspense. Also, I personally love Del Toro’s Hellboy franchise.
Don’t watch this one with a group of friends, unless everyone wants a quiet night at home.
In eight days, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark comes out, a movie produced and co-written by Del Toro. Read more about it here.
Check out other movie reviews.
To read some of my reasons for generally disliking vampire stories, click here.
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