Time Isn’t On His Side
♦ Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water comes out in UK cinemas on Valentine’s Day and so Tripwire’s editor-in-chief will be reviewing every film he has made up to this point. First up is his debut, Cronos, from back in 1993…
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Federico Luppi, Ron Pearlman, Claudio Brook
Guillermo del Toro is a director who has always chosen idiosyncratic subjects for his films. His debut, Cronos, is no exception. Jesus Gris is an elderly antique dealer (played by Federico Luppi) who comes across an ancient artifact which appears to grant eternal life but he discovers that this extended life comes at an extreme cost to whoever uses the artifact, the Cronos of the title.
Claudio Brook plays dying millionaire De La Guardia, who also seeks the device, assisted by his thuggish heavy, his nephew Angel De La Gurdia (Ron Pearlman making his del Toro debut here).
Although Cronos is obviously a more primitive version of what we have seen in later films like Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy and his latest, The Shape of Water, Cronos still explores many of the themes that have become common currency in del Toro’s work. The cronos device acts as a twist on the idea of the vampire as it offers Gris a longer life but at a price which is far too high for any sane man to accept. Antique dealer Gris’s granddaughter Aurora (Tamara Shanath) introduces the concept of the endangered child, one that the director has returned me on many an occasion since, influenced no doubt by his love of DC 1970s horror comics, where this was a regular trope.
Cronos is a powerfully allegorical tale offering a stark warning about an object that give its holders a poisoned gift. There is a vulnerability to Luppi’s performance here which really connects with the audience and Pearlman is suitably menacing as De La Guardia’s bone-headed relative. There is a sweetness and innocence too to Shanath’s performance which acts as a counterpoint to Gris’s descent into madness and corruption.
Considering that Cronos only cost $2million to make, it definitely punches above its weight in terms of its visual impact and its special effects. Even though it isn’t quite as accomplished as what he could achieve later in his career, this film contains all of the del Toro ingredients that he has made his trademarks. As a modern horror film with a deft take on a familiar tale, Cronos was a bold and impressive gothic feature debut for Guillermo del Toro. I would have given it an extra half star here if we were able to.