Cronos (Guillermo del Toro, 1993)

It was very refreshing to see a “vampire movie” (emphasis on the ” “) that didn’t have fangs, or neck-biting, or seductive and beautiful ever-young people, and was largely devoid of cliché of the vampire variety of otherwise, which by now I’ve come to expect from the largely unique and cliché-free Guillermo del Toro (shame he dropped out of “The Hobbit.” That would’ve been cool :( ). Not since “Nosferatu” perhaps has a vampire film really, really focused on what a curse, not a blessing, it would be to be granted immortality by unnatural means. As the kindly old antique shopkeeper Jesus Gris becomes more and more immortal after being ‘bitten’ by the Cronos device, his thirst for blood at a most inopportune time during a black-tie New Years’ party and being chased by a dying, despicable industrialist and his bumbling nephew/henchman (Ron Perlman is one ugly motherfucker…) are the least of his worries. As his skin rots and falls off, his wife and everyone else in the world except his mute and adoring granddaughter believe him to be dead, and sunlight becomes poison, it becomes obvious to both Jesus and us just what a curse this is. He never asked for this fate when he found that metal scarab inside the statue in his shop, and yet here he is. That he, a good and previously unassuming man, must suffer everlasting youth in mind but certainly not in body, and not the greedy industrialist and now Jesus’s mortal enemy who certainly deserves such a fate, brings out the tragic aspects of that kind of immortality that much more, in that our sympathy is added on to the gruesome bodily decay. That del Toro pits old man against old man (hardly an expected protagonist-antagonist pairing in this day and age of fantasy/horror), uses a scene of a flamboyant mortician proudly dolling up a mangled body in stark detail for comic relief, and doesn’t exactly depict Jesus as the most innocent of victims, as he in fact revels in using the violent Cronos device for a time, certainly make this one more unique than you might think. When you consider the idea of the body wanting to die and the brain just not cooperating with that desire, there may be a fate worse than death after all.


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