Cronos: Del Toro’s Stylish Mexican Vampire Movie

In Cronos, the new stylish Mexican vampire movie, marks the astonishing debut of writer-director Guillermo del Toro.

Going right to the center of the myth, he deploys innovative devices of a classic horror picture, laced with a more postmodern dosage of humor and irony.

The tale begins in 1536, when an alchemist, fleeing the Inquisition, arrives in Vera Cruz with a fantastic invention, the chronos device, one that prolongs and regenerates life. His only other legacy, when he dies 400 years later, is a detailed diary of how the whole thing works.

Almost 60 years after his death, the chronos device shows up rather mysteriously in an antique store. By accident, Jesus Gris learns part of its secret. However, he doesn’t have the instructions for its use. We then learn that the diary is in the hands of a corrupt, dying industrialist, who sends his ruthless, demented nephew out to obtain the device. Jesus soon develops a longing for blood, favoring human blood.

Events are seen from the POV of Jesus’s granddaughter, a sober girl who seems the only one to understand what’s happening to him and what’s going on.

While del Toro the writer treats its subject matter seriously, he also shows a delicious sense of humor, which underlines the narrative’s most somber and scariest.

Del Toro, who is a graduate of the University of Guadalajara, makes a splashy feature directorial debut. He is a major talent to watch, and I have no doubts that he will end up in Hollywood very soon making bigger-budget American films.

According to the press notes, del Toro wrote the definitive Spanish study of Hitchcock, which may explain his command of film technique, his elegant rhythm, his stylized framing, and his penchant for mixing genres such as horror, comedy, and melodrama.

His mise-en-scene is particularly impressive in its attention to details of everyday reality, which is observed with clarity yet detachment that would have made Hitchcock proud. Also commendable is the film’s tone, which walks a fine line between the frightening, overwrought and the downright ridiculous.

Del Toro’s background in special effects and make-up, having worked in this capacity on several features films, is evident throughout the picture.