The debut film of Guillermo de Toro. An old antique dealer, Jesús Gris, and his granddaughter Aurora find a 450-year-old mechanical device shaped like a scarab in the base of a statue. Gris is pierced by the device's legs and stinger and finds himself growing younger but also plagued with cravings for blood. Meanwhile, a dying businessman sends his thuggish nephew (Ron Perlman) to claim the device for himself.
The film was given a Criterion Collection (number 551) release on DVD and Blu-ray with updated subtitles and some nice cover and booklet art by del Toro's friend and frequent collaborator Mike Mignola.
Several elements from Cronos will be familiar to anyone reading/watching The Strain, and vice versa — an elderly antique shop owner, unconventional vampires and an evil old man seeking immortality, for starters.
Contains examples of:
- Affably Evil: Angel is pretty charming when he wants to be.
- Alchemy Is Magic: The magical Cronos Device was invented by an alchemist.
- Amulet of Dependency: The Cronos Device, at least during the initial nights after infection. It slowly "purifies" the victim's blood and makes them a vampire in all but name. Failure to use it leads to pain and hunger, though it doesn't quell the eventual thirst for blood.
- Anti-Villain: Angel, who might have been an okay guy had he not been raised by his uncle.
- Author Appeal: Religious iconography, clockwork, and insects everywhere.
- Big Bad: Dieter de la Guarda, a dying man pursuing the Cronos Device for its power.
- Body Horror:
- Clockwork Creature: The Cronos Device is operated by multiple gears and houses an immortal insect inside it.
- Covers Always Lie: Several video cases feature a young, implicitly naked woman being stung by the device. There is no character that matches this image, nor does this event even come close to happening in the story.
- The Dog Bites Back: Angel, tired of waiting for his inheritance and fed up with the abuse, kills Dieter.
- The Dragon: Angel to Dieter.
- Dying as Yourself: Jesús decides to smash the Cronos device while he still retains his humanity rather than feed on Aurora's blood, repeating "I am Jesús Gris" to stave off his Horror Hunger.
- Evil Old Folks: Dieter.
- Friendly Neighborhood Vampire
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Big events in the film take place during Christmas and New Year's. Though the holidays themselves aren't emphasized — it's more subdued, "normalcy of family is gone" type of thing.
- Horror Hunger: Jesus Gris gets this after the third "sting" from the Cronos Device, lusting after blood spilt from a nose bleed in a bathroom, and later once he stabs Dieter.
- Immortality Inducer: The Cronos Device by virtue of infecting the person with what is essentially a non-communicable form of vampirism.
- Immortality Seeker: Dieter.
- Irony: Dieter has a septic, joyless existence, leading Angel to wonder why would he want immortality?
- Little Miss Badass: Aurora proves to be this in the end.
- MacGuffin Title
- Meaningful Name: It might be a coincidence, but Jesús Gris sounds very similar to Jesus Christ.
- Not Using The V Word: The word vampire is never said.
- One-Word Title: Cronos
- Our Vampires Are Different: Superficial features are closer to 'classical' vampires than your typical Dracula. Users of the device evoke medieval porphyria sufferers in their quickly degrading skin and extreme vulnerability to sunburns. Their condition seems non-infectious even if they feed directly from someone else's body. Despite their blood craving, they seem to have the potential to eventually revive from mortal wounds as long as their heart is left intact, and the ending implies that their condition might be curable if the insect that originally injected them is destroyed.
- The Quiet One: Aurora does not speak for most of the film.
- Ransacked Room: Jesus' shop gets trashed by Angel who was searching for the Cronos.
- Rooftop Confrontation: Jesus and Angel at the end.
- Tap on the Head: Angel knocks Jesus out by kicking him in the head and drags him off to be interrogated.
- Theme Naming: Jesús Gris ("Gray Jesus") and Ángel de la Guardia (Guardian Angel). Also Jesús's wife Mercedes ("mercies") and granddaughter Aurora ("dawn"), who serve as his Living Emotional Crutches and help him find his final redemption.
- Trailers Always Spoil: The US trailer spoils most of the film's major plot points.