A Theater Near You: CRONOS

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The Movie:

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Country: Mexico | 1992 | 92 minutes
Language: English, Spanish, Vampire(?)

I was pissed when I found out that Netflix had removed CRONOS from its instant watch. I also get pissed every time I have to write the word “queue” when talking about Netflix. Hey English: it’s a stupid word. It’s almost as stupid as Qwikster would have been if Netflix had gone through with that.

I suspect it was removed because the movie is part of the Criterion Collection, which is why the vastly superior Hellboy and the pretty okay I guess Mimic are the two Guillermo Del Toro movies currently available for streaming. Luckily for you flojos, though, the entire Criterion Collection is on Hulu Plus, which means CRONOS is there for your viewing pleasure.

Not the kind of pleasure you’ll get out of our last feature, Carlos. You see, that movie is actually good. We love El laberinto del fauno. We love El espinazo del diablo.

CRONOS, on the other hand, is a fucking mess. But make no mistake, it’s a mess we fully recommend you watch and love for what it shows us: the development of Guillermo del Toro’s distinct style. Sure, this movie won eight of Mexico’s prestigious Ariel awards upon its release, and it put its director on the map, but the plot doesn’t move and is underdeveloped, as are most of the relationsips. The two leads – by which I mean the old man and his granddaughter – are both incredible, but every other character is just a prop. It’s a movie supremely uninterested in itself; if the focus is to be so tightly on the relationship between two characters, what’s the rest of the movie for? Many artists’ early work sucks, no matter how beloved they become, and some of it isn’t worth watching, but if you can make it past the pacing problems that make CRONOS feel so goddamned slow, you’re in for a fascinating experience.

The movie starts out with a flashback to 1537 where an alchemist is trying to find the secret to eternal life. Blah blah blah, he is killed. Flash forward to the present – well, to the 90’s, anyway – where the not so subtly named protagonist Jesús Gris is hanging out in his antique shop with his adorable, precocious granddaughter, whose name, Aurora, is also hamhandedly mystical. They find a crazy steampunk device in the base of a statue, and it stings Jesús. He begins to get younger, hornier, and – oh yeah! – thirsty for blood.

The device is also being sought out by a creepy old man named Dieter de la Guardia and his servant, Spanish-speaking Ron Perlman. Conflict ensues!

I won’t go on to tell you everything that happens, but rest assured if you dig del Toro’s work, you should for sure check this out. Make no mistakes, this movie sucks, but it sucks in such a fascinating way – you can see all of Guillermo del Toro’s signature touches, from the precocious child attuned to the supernatural, to the interaction between the tender and the monstrous, to the just plain amazing art direction. It’s not good, but it’s a pretty amazing first outing from a director, and a testament to the amount of control del Toro still has over his films: CRONOS, his first film, is thoroughly as much a del Toro film as Pan’s Labyrinth.

It’s only an hour and a half long. What else do you have to do with your day?

Where You Can Watch it Now:

It’s on DVD, but that’s not what this column is about. It used to be on Netflix, but now you can check it out on Hulu Plus for sure.