Cronos (1993)

Directed by Guillermo Del Toro

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In Cronos one man stumbles upon that which another will do anything to find.  Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi) is the affable owner of a store of artifacts and grandfather to young Aurora (Tamara Shanath).  He soon finds a device which will render him immortal, but his sudden obsession with eternal life combined with the relentlessness of the men who are after it will kill him, twice.

This is a story about greed, pride and ego, the things you’d probably expect a story about immortality to address.  The people who cling to life, to their physical body, must endure the consequences of refusing to let go.  Jesus enjoys the initial perks of a revitalized body, but before he knows it he must pay the necessary consequences.

First, Jesus has a newfound thirst for blood, something we learn this immortality device creates within you.  It turns the jovial old man into something of a vampire, one who finds himself on the floor of a restaurant bathroom slurping up the remnants of another patron’s bloody nose.

Del Toro has a way of finding these subtly grotesque moments in a movie full of much flashier story elements.  We will see Jesus turn into the Frankenstein monster, but that might fulfill an audience expectation in a movie about the consequences of eternal life.  What we don’t expect is to see him turning into what is essentially a drug addict bottoming out on life.

Jesus’ transformation is most similar to Jeff Goldblum’s in The Fly.  This movie follows that same path, the rise before the fall, and that fall is quite glorious.  In the case of Cronos, Jesus will die and then be reborn, not unlike his namesake.

Another important character here is Angel de la Guardia (Ron Perlman).  He works for his dying uncle, a wealthy man who is in search of the immortality device which Jesus has found.  Angel doesn’t give two sh*ts about the device, in fact he’s not even sure what it is.  All he knows is that his uncle will give him hell until he finds it.

Angel’s response to learning that his uncle wants immortality is to laugh, “that fucker does nothing but shit and piss all day, and he wants to live longer?”

Stuck in the middle of these two would-be immortals, Angel is a wild card, there to wreak havoc.  His greed is no less than the older men, but he simply doesn’t have the opportunity to maximize it yet.  He will beat Jesus into unconsciousness, put him in a car which he pushes off a cliff and then claim it was an accident to his uncle.  Angel doesn’t like his uncle, but that doesn’t mean he has any kind of sympathy for the man his uncle is after.

Later Jesus will come back to life, and the final act of the movie concerns the confrontation between the three main characters.  Tagging along is Jesus’ granddaughter Aurora.

She remains silent as we push through the climax of the film.  We anticipate that she will be frightened of her undead grandfather, but instead she follows him like an apostle.  Her fascination with him follows a similar curiosity of characters in Del Toro’s other movies like Pan’s Labyrinth and The Shape of Water.  In his films one of the central characters is enamored with the fantasy propelling everything forward, even if it manifests itself in the form of a strange creature, monster or otherwise.

It’s this curiosity that underscores the magic in the world.  His characters find escapism in something others would run from.  The mere fact that it’s different might be enough to make it exciting and thus worthwhile.

Del Toro’s films, at least the ones I’m thinking of like Cronos, Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy, aren’t explicitly horror movies or adventure films.  They blur the lines between those genres, each one containing an element of dread, fantasy, horror and even comedy.  His characters find themselves in worlds we’ve seen in other movies, but they approach them in unexpected ways.  Aurora, Ofelia and most recently Elisa have approached something objectively frightening and even horrific as something wonderful.  They reach out with a delicate hand to the things we expect to cower from, turning Frankenstein’s monster into Lassie.

Up Next: Unfriended (2014), Mom and Dad (2017), Man on the Moon (1999) /Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)

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