Cronos (1993)

Guillermo del Toro somehow feels like he is one of us, a monster kid to be sure, but also one that has a Best Director and Best Picture Oscar on his shelf along with all the Aurora models and back issues of Famous Monsters. Actually, he owns two homes just for his collections, saying “As a kid, I dreamed of having a house with secret passages and a room where it rained 24 hours a day. The point of being over 40 is to fulfill the desires you’ve been harboring since you were 7.”

The themes of monsters being the heroes and the Catholicism of Mexico run deep within del Toro’s work. More than any filmmaker, I’d love to have a discussion with him. After all, his theory of why Fulci works so well — “He’s getting high on his own supply” — is so all-knowing that statement has informed so much of my writing.

Cronos tells the story of Jesus Gris (Argentine acting legend Federico Luppi, who also worked with Del Toro on The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth), an antiques dealer who is infected by a mechanical scarab that he has found in the base of an angelic statue.

This device was created by an alchemist who lived for nearly four hundred years, sustained by the blood of the living. Soon, Jesus has started to feel the kiss of youth once again, yet he must pay for it in, you guessed it, blood.

The alchemist is based on Fulcanelli, a French alchemist and esoteric author whose identity remains unknown (some believe that he was Jules Violle, a famous French physicist) and whose life and disappearance were popularized by the Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier book The Morning of the Magicians, which heralded the new age of the occult. This isn’t the only movie that deals with Fulcanelli. His book The Mystery of the Cathedrals informs the Michele Soavi movie The Church.

Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook, Castle of Purity) has been looking for this device for decades, seeking statues of archangels as he knows that is where it lies. He sends his brutish nephew Angel (Ron Perlman, who would also freuently collaborate with del Toro) to get the device no matter what.

In the funeral home scene, look for Tito the Coroner and the funeral director, who also show up in Jorge Grau’s We Are What We Are.

Angel does exactly that, nearly beating the old man to death to get the device. Jesus wakes up in a mortuary and soon discovers that his skin burns in the sun.  Can he escape the curse that this device has put on his soul, save his granddaughter and escape the evil de la Guardia family? Time will tell.

Sadly, all of the Cronos devices made for this movie were stolen when production was completed. They were never recovered, so the ones that del Toro owns today are just replicas.

This is a different take on vampires and announced del Toro to the world. Watch it and be stunned.

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