Cronos - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Cronos Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ January 31, 2014
Terrific vampire film, Cronos is a horrifying take on the genre, one that director Guillermo del Toro takes on with great confidence. This is a terrifying horror film one that has a tense, eerie atmosphere, which adds to the disturbing aspect of the film. With that being said, it only adds to the terror of the film, and you have a sense of fear throughout. The story is engaging and well thought out. The film will surely please genre fans, and del Toro crafts one of the most memorable vampire films of the 90's. If you want a more traditional vampire film to watch, Cronos more than delivers. This is a thrilling horror film, one that is chilling from start to finish. Cronos is the type of vampire film that adds to the consistency of quality vampire films. Cronos is a fine picture from del Toro, and he makes a terrific feature that continues the tradition of terrifying, memorable vampire films. del Toro has always had a great imagination when it came to making great horror films, and Cronos is proof of that. With a great story, good cast and intense chills. Cronos is a memorable horror film that is a must watch for genre fans. del Toro has delivered a stunning work that makes for a memorable horror film going experience. Cronos has plenty of atmosphere to create its memorable chills. If you love a good vampire flick, Cronos is yet another stunning picture that relies on a great story, and powerful visuals to make for a great film.
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2011
Endlessly imaginative.
Super Reviewer
½ August 18, 2011
For his directorial debut, then 28 year-old Guillermo del Toro opted for a surreal, darkly comedic take on the vampire myth.

Not only did this cement del Toro as a director to watch, and serve as a great stand alone piece of work, it also set forth many of the elements that would become his trademarks, namely great use of symbolism (often religious in nature), motifs involving machinery/gears and insects, expressive use of lighting (interplay between light and dark), and a tendency towards the gothic, among other things.

The plot revolves around a kind old antiques dealer whose relationship with his much younger wife is on the downward slope. He has a much better rapport with his granddaughter, which really doesn't set well with grandmother. One day our protagonist happens upon a mysterious scarab like device which attacks him, and essentially turns him into a vampire of sorts. It'll make more sense when you see it. Anyways, on top of that, this crude American thug comes around looking for the device, as it is sought by his equally trashy industrialist uncle. This all leads to a big mix of the quest for immortality a la the Last Crusade et al with a unique riff on the vampire mythos.

This is a really terrific film. It's surprising how polished and realized this is, especially for a feature debut. It's a bit more darkly humorous than I was first expecting, but that's fine. It's still plenty dark and twisted, and the humor actually works fairly well. We get some great performances, interesting characters and situations, and some really neat ideas and cool special effects. Things kinda feel la little rushed towards the end, like it begins to run out of steam and they weren't totally sure how to end it, but even then, the film is still quite enjoyable and good.

Federico Luppi is quite good as the protagonist Jesus Gris, but for me, the real highlight was seeing Ron Perlman as the crude American thug Angel de la Guardia. This was the first of many collaborations between him and Guillermo, and he's a real scene stealing delight here, and makes for a memorable antagonist. Besides some good performances there's also some really good music, a great look, and excellent cinematography.

I highly recommend this, for del Toro fans, horror comedy fans, and people who appreciate quasi artsy but not totally pretentious stuff. Heck, if you dig off beat stuff, this will satisfy, and of course, it works well for those who like things related to vampirism. I highly recommend the Criterion edition, as the booklet for it has some splendid essays and supplemental material, most notably some of del Toro's original notes for the movie and character bios.

Definitely check this out, it's quite a treat.
Super Reviewer
February 16, 2011
Horror is not a known for being a unique genre. It has many rip-offs and imitators, but that being said, many "imitators" and "rip-offs" were better than their respective counterparts (case and point "It! The Terror From Beyond Space" vs. "Alien"). "Cronos" is unique in the sense that it has retooled an ancient horror idea (and ancient horror creature, for that matter) into something very different than what you're used to. I won't say what creature makes an eventual appearance in this film, it's one of the cooler moments this film has to offer. Highly recommended, with some sick creature effects mixed with some truly powerful performances and moments that won't be leaving your head anytime soon.
Super Reviewer
July 4, 2012
An interesting variant on the old vampire legend, one stressing not only the humanity of the monster (he's got a family ... they might become lunch ... that loves him) but, ahem, the learning curve involved in becoming a monster as well.
Super Reviewer
½ March 25, 2012
A strange debut horror story for Guillermo del Toro. It has a certain charm to it, bringing a new idea to a vampire tale. Character driven rather than over the top shock and gore. Still it looks rather dated now due to the low budget.
Super Reviewer
December 24, 2011
Guillermo Del Toro's first feature film Cronos was one that I'd been meaning to get my hands on when a Criterion Blu-ray was first announced way back when. I finally managed to snag myself a copy, and I feel like I was rewarded quite well. I'm always pleased when I find a genre turned on its head and told in a completely new and refreshing way. Now, this isn't an obvious vampire tale - they actually don't use the word once in the film, nor do they even refer to the undead. That's not really what the story is about anyway, and that's why it makes for a compelling story. If you're in tune with the story at all, you realize that it's about an old man coming to terms with old age, dealing with his young niece who he's very close to, and having his morbid curiosity get the best of him. At least, that's the film I saw. You might have a different take it on than me, but that's how I saw it. The film does tend to be too slow at times without winding up the tension in certain areas. The tone also wavers a bit with Ron perlman's performance during certain scenes. Other than those minor errors, it's a goregous film with a bold color palette and beautiful photography. It also has, as previously stated, a refreshing take on the vampire film, and I'm glad that I waited as long as I did to see it. Ah, refreshing.
Super Reviewer
½ November 21, 2011
Strangely done film. Different take on the vampire lore. Dark, brooding, and slow paced. Not really horror, but really more "supernatural". You gotta love Guillermo Del Toro for his unique take in this genre of "horror" films..
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2011
Cronos is a Guillermo del Toro debut feature that conjures ancient alchemy to prey on immortality. Cronos is an aesthetic and thematic exploration of dark aspirations, insatiable desires, and famished greed. Sinister, but tender. Eerie.
Super Reviewer
½ August 3, 2011
"Cronos" is an uncommonly assured and emotionally resonant directorial debut from Guillermo del Toro. Del Toro understands what makes a true fairy tale work and how frightening, beautiful and engaging they can be. The film boasts some creative, non-pretentious directorial flourishes and a warm, respectful visual rhetoric. What ultimately made "Cronos" so unique is that it's most certainly a genre picture, but it's focus is on it's characters. The film is about moments of light and dark, not about gore or kills. I was enthralled during del Toro's personal, beautiful first feature.
Super Reviewer
½ May 31, 2011
I'm sad to say I didn't like Cronos. It was Guillermo del Toros first film and he has obviously improved a great deal. Cronos wasn't necessarily bad but I just couldn't get into it and enjoy it. I didn't care for any of the characters as they all seemed a bit flat. Was interesting to see del Toros directorial debut and his first collaboration with Ron Perlman.
Super Reviewer
April 5, 2011
A creative debut from a great adult-fantasy director, Guillermo del Toro's Cronos blends inspired direction with some pretty intelligent screen-writing.
Daniel Mumby
Super Reviewer
½ April 19, 2011
Well before the 'abstinence porn' of Twilight began to hit our screens, a whole wave of vampire films in the 1990s returned to the deep well of sex which had become the lifeblood of vampire fiction. We had Anne Rice's AIDS allegory Interview with a Vampire, John Landis' uneven crime drama Innocent Blood, and of course Francis Ford Coppola's bonkers version of Dracula.

But in the midst of these hypersexual offerings, a small Mexican film from a first-time director was helping to radically reshape the genre. Cronos, the debut by Guillermo Del Toro, demonstrated that vampire fiction could explore themes far more varied than sex, such as the fear of death, the loneliness of old age and the relationship between Mexico and the USA. A hugely influential work of horror cinema, it is every bit as striking and significant as Let The Right One In.

When I reviewed The Usual Suspects, I remarked that one test of a good filmmaker is being able to take a hackneyed series of conventions, and create something which is both memorable and mindful of its genre origins. On this level alone Cronos is a triumph, since it is able to fulfil all the requirements of being a bona fide vampire film which approaching all the key plot points and characters arcs from distinctively unusual angles.

Cronos may have a backstory about the origins of the vampire, followed by the introduction of our protagonists to said bloodsucker which results in quite a lot of gore. But Del Toro manages to achieve this while removing from the story all connotations of sex or lust. In place of Hammer's heaving bosoms and phallic fangs, he gives us skin peeling like wallpaper and the intricate clockwork of the Cronos device. The closest the film comes to anything sexual is a scene of Federico Luppi licking a nosebleed off a bathroom floor, which is shot with such clinical precision that there can be no room for erotic thoughts.

By refocusing the story around ageing and the fear of death, Cronos hits on the central dilemma in vampire fiction: would you rather live forever but lose your soul, or stay pure and human but live in constant fear of death? Both the elderly characters in the film choose the former, albeit for different motives and by entirely different means. Dieter, the dying businessman, makes a conscious decision to pursue the device: he owns the manual needed to operate it and believes it is the only thing that can keep him and his empire alive (and out of his nephew's hands).

Jesus, on the other hand, is 'bitten' accidentally, and only comes to use the device frequently through observing its physical benefits. His desire, in the form of addiction to blood, is every bit as strong as Dieter's desire to possess the device himself, but it is not motivated by selfishness or a desire for power. Like Dracula, Jesus becomes weary of eternal life: he is worn down not by an army of brides, but by the constant torment of those who are jealous of his powers. In the end his remaining sense of self triumphs over the vampire he has become, and he sacrifices himself to protect his beloved granddaughter.

The theme of ageing is also conveyed in the visuals of Cronos. Guillermo Navarro's cinematography is very washed-out, with dark woods and fading reds to indicate how everything around the characters is very slowly dying or decaying. Even the brightest scenes in the film, like the New Year's party, are filled with pale colours and make use of shadows wherever possible.

Beyond its direct connections with the vampire genre, Cronos is connected to other key figures in horror. The design of the Cronos device itself, with its peculiar blend of biology and mechanics, resembles the work of Clive Barker: its design as is intricate as the puzzle box in Hellraiser and there is the same suggestion of great evil being contained in or brought forth from something of great beauty.

There are also connections with John Carpenter in the film's elaborate and highly convincing make-up. Del Toro's training under make-up artist Dick Smith shines through in his pursuit of organic, physical terror, and the work of his make-up artist M. Carrajal rivals anything which Rob Bottin achieved on The Thing. There is a further connection with Carpenter contained in a line where the device is dismissed as "just a toy". Like Carpenter in Hallowe'en, Del Toro is taking an aspect of horror which had become institutionalised and accepted, and proving that it could still scare you to death.

Cronos is a deeply religious film, in its use of iconography and its exploration of the meanings to both life and death. Again, this is drawing on a classic trait in vampire fiction, namely that the act of being or becoming a vampire is a rebellion against the laws of nature (including death), which it was believed were set in stone by God. Though there is no scene of Jesus declaring war on heaven, as happens in the Coppola version, his faith is counterpointed by his growing dependence on the device, as demonstrated by him reciting the Lord's Prayer while allowing it to stab him a second time.

There are other indications of these religious themes as well. The Cronos device was created by an alchemist, someone who brought the material and spiritual worlds together, using what became the scientific method to find the divine substance which could cure all disease and prolong life. The images of cockroaches bursting out of angels, or the device being hidden in said statues, hints at the threat which such a device poses to Christianity. By removing the certainty of death, it undermines the corresponding fear of death and damnation, and therefore makes it less necessary either to repent or to live a moral life.

To add to its theological wrangling, Cronos also has political connotations. The film is a rich allegory for US-Mexican relations, in which America is the bloodsucker which takes without asking and refuses to yield. Dieter, the American, is determined not to let the Mexicans (in the shape of Jesus) get one over on them - the second they come up with something useful, the Americans want it for themselves and won't take no for an answer. There is a contrast between Federico Luppi's sympathetic, caring grandfather and Ron Perlman's aggressive and ambitious nephew. Perlman may slip in and out of Luppi's language, but he is only interested in himself - it is not communication, only giving orders in a language he thinks they can understand.

The performances in Cronos are mostly of a high quality. Luppi is a great screen presence, seeming frail and vulnerable while coming across as a strong and determined character. Perlman, in his first of several collaborations with Del Toro, is a very fine match for him. His versatility with language is matched only by his desire to throw himself physically into the role. The only weak link is the young girl, played by Tamara Shanath. It isn't so much her performance as the limited extent of her character's development; we don't feel as strongly connected to her as we do with her counterparts in The Devil's Backbone or Pan's Labyrinth.

Cronos is a great debut feature from one of horror's greatest directors. While not as perfectly formed as Pan's Labyrinth, it contains all the hallmarks of Del Toro's genius, from its powerfully unique visuals to its constant invention and intelligence even in the most trivial of moments. It's a top-notch chiller and a welcome shot in the arm for vampire fiction, proving that the genre is still able to stimulate as well as scare. It's not Let The Right One In, but it should be welcomed into anyone's collection.
Super Reviewer
½ March 27, 2011
I really tried to enjoy this as much as I could since i'm a fan of Guillermo del Toro's other work, but there's just nothing to take from it. From a visual and creative standpoint it is little better than a made-for-tv movie. Now this could have been used to their advantage; there's plenty of cases in which small budget movies can have some of the best results. It seems that this plugged along like some kind of vissionary work when it's just not. The only thing interesting here is seeing some of the tools that del Toro has since perfected in recent works.
Super Reviewer
April 2, 2007
A device created to prolong life by a 16th century alchemist falls into the possession of an elderly antiques dealer, but when he is accidentally "bitten", it transforms him into an unkillable creature who thirsts for human blood. Guillermo Del Toro's first feature is a low budget horror that puts a new spin on vampire mythologoy. This creature of the night is an unwilling victim, and finds his new condition a curse he wants to be released from. It contains many of what would become Del Toro's trademarks, namely the intricate golden clockwork of the device, the mix of gore and artful visuals, and the innocent eyes of a child through which these macabre events are seen. Unfortunately it has a similar feeling to many of Cronenberg's early works in that it has a strong central premise, but feels half finished; disappointingly, we don't really see or learn much about the device itself and the ideas seem to dry up as the film goes on. Like the debuts of Raimi and Rodriguez, it points the way to the potential of the director, but a little more maturity and the financial backing to realise his vision is what was required to make the leap into the big leagues. Interesting, but incomplete.
Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2009
Del Toro's take on vampire's is both refreshing and familiar. In the current world of piss poor Twilight and other bland vampire tales, Cronos reminds us of the great curse of eternal life. It mixes fantasy and genuine emotion, something Del Toro has constantly shown. The almost silent relationship between grandfather and granddaughter is a very sweet way to observe a vampire tale. This is Del Toro gradually maturing as a filmmaker. It's not perfect, but even it's misgivings make it more interesting than the usual films we are subjected to.
Super Reviewer
October 30, 2007
It's got some creepy and bloody moments, but its focus is on the human relationship between a grandfather and his granddaughter. It's not scary enough to be a horror flick and too gory to be the former.
Super Reviewer
½ September 28, 2007
Solid genre flick from Del Toro, before selling his soul to hollywood.
Super Reviewer
January 25, 2008
I was a bit disappointed with this. It does add a few new ideas to the vampire sub-genre but it's very slow and not particularly engaging. If you've seen "Mimic" or "Pan's Labyrinth", you won't be surprised to find that "Cronos" contains some insects and a gloomy child who doesn't say very much. I'm beginning to think that del Toro is only as good a director as his cinematographer and visual effects artists allow.
Super Reviewer
½ November 1, 2006
There's precious little that I can remember of Cronos, it was a bit of a let-down. The essential premise sounds absolutely diamond, and I am always one for tales where mythology mixes with fact.
This is the core of Cronos, in which a vampiric device becomes dangerous in the hands of an aging antiques collector. Though I usually praise 'slow build-up' horrors, the lack of momentum here is a real issue, as it fails to be particuarly creepy at any point.
Perlman is good in a scene-stealing fashion, but on the whole the film is an adequate oddity in the canon of vampire movies.
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