An antique dealer finds a timepiece, the Cronos device, which bestows eternal youth in return for a constant supply of blood. But whose? What if you turn on your own family? A film that uses the Dracula story to explore ageing, addiction, the fragility of life and the strength of love, this is a mature and impressive début by director Guillermo del Toro.
Mexico 1992, 92 minutes
An alchemist invents a timepiece, the Cronos, a device containing a living organism that bestows eternal youth in return for a constant supply of blood. Centuries later an antique dealer, Jesús Gris, finds it, and, like its inventor before him, unwittingly becomes its creature, feeling rejuvenated despite the fact that the Cronos is bleeding him, literally, white. But when he himself can no longer supply the blood it needs he seeks it from others – even his beloved granddaughter.
Another vampire story, then, albeit with a twist. Like the best vampire movies it has horror, a certain grim humour, and, of course, special effects – director Guillermo del Toro was an effects artist before turning his hand to directing. But he uses the rather hackneyed genre to explore the nature of addiction and the universal desire to fend off old age and death, the longing for more time, and the price you pay for it. There is also a strong religious theme; the Mass being the only time you can respectably drink another’s blood in the hope of eternal life.
Unlike many vampires Jesús Gris – Grey Jesus – is a fully-realised character, a man with both base and noble instincts and desires. Of course he wants to live forever, but is the cost – the sacrifice of his granddaughter – too high? Is it enough for him to survive only in her? She provides not just the crux of the story but a symbol of hope and of the future, and an innocent, uncomprehending observer through whose eyes we can watch Jesús’ transformation. And what images she sees. Guillermo del Toro has learned not only how to produce effects but, more importantly, how to use them – to serve, rather than to drive, the film. His use of colour, or the lack of it, is almost a narrative device in itself. His directorial debut is an intelligent horror film, and an accomplished work in any genre.
Jesús Gris: Federico Lupi
Aurora: Tamara Shamath
Angel de la Guardia: Ron Perlman
Dieter de la Guardia: Claudio Brook
Director, Screenplay: Guillermo del Toro
Producers: Bertha Navarro, Bernard L Nussbaumer
Photography: Guillermo Navarro
“Gripping, squeamish, spooky. Quite unlike anything we’ve seen before except perhaps Nosferatu.”
“One of the most disturbing films I have ever seen: a very different take on vampirism.”
“Very atmospheric – where can I get a Cronos for Christmas ??”
“Well, if it’s Mexican, it must be about death – but maybe it’s about …..HEROIN ?”
“Disturbingly matter-of-fact about brutality at times accentuated by the child being such a casual observer – I feel most sorry for her. Fairly predictable, though. I enjoyed the nice touches of humour but they made (the film) appear tongue-in-cheek at times.”
“Rather too GORY for me! Ketchup?”
“The worst sort of horror – OTT but tedious with it. That child will grow up seriously disturbed!”
“What kind of mind could dream that up ??”
“Awful! I couldn’t believe a word.”
“Deeply boring. Happy half term!”