Barnes and Nobles was having a 50% off sale on selected Criterion collection movies, so I recently picked up Guillermo del Toro’s 1993 feature debut, Cronos. It didn’t disappoint. In fact, it presented a view of vampirism that I’ve rarely seen on the screen before.
Jesus Gris (Jesus Grey, in english) owns a curio shop. He lives with his wife, Mercedes, and his granddaughter, Aurore, who he loves more than anything else in the world.
One day, they discover a curious artifact inside a statue of an archangel.
Isn’t that beautiful? I once read that del Toro couldn’t find an effects company to satisfactorily make the golden scarab so he created his own company and made it himself.
The device pricks Jesus with a long stinger. The wound on his hand looks terrible but Jesus finds himself desiring the device more and more. He also finds himself looking and feeling younger.
But this restored vitality comes at a high price. Jesus finds himself craving human blood. He craves blood enough to lick it off of a bathroom floor.
Also, Jesus isn’t the only person who wants the Cronos device. Dieter de la Guardia, a wealthy, dying man, wants the device and sends his thuggish nephew, Angel (Played hilariously by Ron Perlman) to get it.
Cronos deals with philosophical questions in a stylish and interesting way. What happens to you when you can’t die? Like the Jesus, Jesus is resurrected but he wakes up on the embalming table with his mouth sewn shut. One of the more unforgettable sequences of the movie is Jesus yanking out his mouth-thread.
As the movie progresses, Jesus becomes more and more decrepit but he can’t die. I think it would be interesting to contrast this idea with another vampire movie of that time, 1994’s Interview With the Vampire. In Interview, the vampires are sexy but sad inside. Jesus is pretty gross to look at by the end, but he’s still beautiful inside.
The movie is decadently beautiful to look at. I love the contrast between the lush decay of Mexico and the antiques in Jesus’s shop versus the sterile coldness of De La Guardia’s compound.
I don’t normally like scary movies with children in them, partially because mainstream movies never seem willing to off the kids in situations where their deaths would be likely. However, Tamara Shanath delivers an amazing performance as the preternaturally aware Aurore. I think that there are few sweeter scenes in moviedom than Aurore greeting Jesus back from the rain with a towel and letting him sleep in her toy box as a coffin that she’s lined with her teddy-bear and a doll.
While I think that some of the film-making is unsubtle–Jesus’s shop is full of clocks, tick, tick, ticking away his mortality–I still think it’s effective and creative film-making. I like to think of the movie as a meditation on our own mortality and how far we’d go to stay close to our loved ones. I like that Jesus is a dealer in old items and dresses like someone from the past but spends his time with his granddaughter, the embodiment of youth. Finally, I like the choice of his name, Jesus Gris, because he does come back and he exists in a grey area that’s neither life nor death.
Cronos was sometimes gory, sometimes scary, sometimes very funny, and ultimately a beautiful reflection on the fact that we all have to die, some day.
- Scarina--the authoress and editrix of this site. I like scary movies and have dedicated my free time to cataloging horror--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes there are books too.
There's film criticism, literary criticism, and humor here. I can be highbrow but there's lots of pop culture too. And feminism.
I fervently love "Twin Peaks" and wish it were a real place so I could move there. I can't list my favorite scary movies because they change depending on my mood, the season, and how much coffee I've had.
I'm an artist looking for ways to blend creepy with cute. I try to channel my childhood nightmares, my love of horror, and my experiences with sleepy paralysis.
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