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Film / Cronos

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The 1992 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. According to Guillermo del Toro himself, Angel probably could have been a friend under different circumstances but unfortunately is unable to think of any solutions to his problems outside of using violence.
  • 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.
  • And There Was Much Rejoicing: Angel starts loudly celebrating and laughing when he sees Dieter bleeding out on the floor, presuming him to be dead.
  • Anti-Villain: Angel, who might have been an okay guy had he not been raised by his uncle. In the commentary GDT even talks about his sympathetic aspects and says he would've been a friend in different circumstances, but he only knows how to meet setbacks with violence.
  • Author Appeal: Religious iconography, clockwork, and insects everywhere.
  • Big Bad: Dieter de la Guardia, a dying man pursuing the Cronos Device for its power.
  • Body Horror:
  • Clock Punk: The life-prolonging Cronos Device is a bio-mechanical clockwork artifact.
  • 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.
  • Cruelty by Feet: Dieter survives being smacked by Aurora and fed on by Jesús and asks Angel for help. Angel, who'd been celebrating his uncle's death, decides he's had enough and presses his foot to Dieter's throat, killing him.
  • Descent into Addiction: Using the device and consuming blood are both addictive. Jesús starts out being able to hide his use of the Cronos Device and turn away from even raw meat, but he resorts to the Device regularly and licks blood off a bathroom floor halfway through the film.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The first two times Jesús uses the device, he slips away to do it in some lonely place, leaving his wife and bedroom for the stairwell, or the bathroom, and has to wave away the attention of other characters. In the commentary del Toro says that this is both part of the addiction metaphor and playing on the sensuality inherent to so much vampire fiction, in this case a 'lonely' sensuality.
  • 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: Jesús strives to be this as the changes induced by the device take hold. And if not for the villains he might have managed, at least for a while. He eventually smashes the device, an act he expects will kill him, rather than give into his thirst for Aurora's blood.
  • Hemo Erotic: The direction Jesús's actor was given for licking a daub of blood off the floor of a public bathroom? "Lick it like it's champagne in a beautiful woman's navel. Savor it."
  • 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 a moment of this after his first "sting" from the Cronos Device, staring at fascination at raw meat in the refrigerator, but he's able to shrug it off. With continued use he finds himself 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 has been seeking the Cronos Device for a long time.
  • Irony: Dieter has a septic, joyless existence, leading Angel to wonder why he would want immortality in the first place.
    Angel: That fucker does nothing but shit and piss all day, and he wants to live longer?
  • Jar of the Bizarre: The the villain, in his quest to prolong his life as much as possible, routinely has his aged organs swapped out for new ones. He keeps his discarded organs in jars on his shelves.
  • Little Miss Badass: Aurora is fully willing to smack an old man, and quite hard, for her grandfather's sake
  • MacGuffin Title: Much of the plot is driven by Dieter's efforts to get the eponymous Cronos Device from Jesús.
  • Meaningful Name: It might be a coincidence, but Jesús Gris sounds very similar to Jesus Christ.
  • Next Sunday A.D.: In the newspaper item reporting the death of Jesús Gris, the year of death is listed as 1997, five years after the movie was released.
  • Nasal Trauma: Dieter's broken Angel's nose many times and does so again on-screen as punishment for Angel's failure. After Angel gets yet another round of plastic surgery on his face he attacks Jesús Gris and has it broken again.
  • Not Using the "Z" 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. No fangs are evident. 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.
  • Raised by Grandparents: Aurora's living with her grandparents. Jesús asks her if she can remember her father at all, suggesting her parents are absent.
  • Ransacked Room: Jesus' shop gets trashed by Angel who was searching for the Cronos.
  • Religious Horror: Jesús finds the amulet in the base of a damaged angel statue after several roaches crawl out of the angel's cracked face. In the commentary track del Toro talks about layers, the religious aspects of the vampire, and the symbolism of the device as being found inside of a rotting angel.
  • Rooftop Confrontation: Jesus and Angel at the climax, ending in Jesús pitching them both off the roof and through a skylight.
  • Scarab Power: The scarab-shaped Cronos Device, which grants immortality at the price of blood dependency.
  • 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.
  • Voluntary Vampire Victim: Aurora is never afraid of her grandfather, even as he changes quite grotesquely, and helps him however she can, though she doesn't quite grasp the danger of it. At the end of the movie, she sees he's fascinated by a cut on her hand and offers it to him, saying his name. Jesús is tempted, but so revolted with himself that he smashes the scarab, somehow getting home to die in his bed.
  • White Is Pure: In the commentary track, del Toro describes the pale skin of the alchemist found at the start of the film and the second layer of skin growing on Jesús as the result of the user's blood being truly purified by the amulet. Of course, Pure Is Not Good.