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Life and blood,
This review is from: Criterion Collection: Cronos [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC] (DVD)
Currently everybody thinks of him as directing Pan's Labyrinth or the Hellboy movies. But at the very beginning of his career, Guillermo del Toro honed his directorial skills with a truly brilliant, unique movie called "Cronos," which expertly blended alchemy, vampirism and creeping psychological horror.
Antique dealer Jesús Gris (Federico Luppi) is handling an angel statue when he finds an insectile metal object in the bottom. And it bites him, injecting him with a strange fluid. Soon Jesús finds himself addicted to the device, and he finds that it's slowly restoring his youth and strength. And during a party, he also finds that it's giving him a hunger for blood.
Unfortunately, a wealthy but dying businessman is determined to find the device, and he sends out his brutal nephew Angel (Ron Perlman) to find it -- and Angel even kills Jesús when the old man doesn't tell him what he wants to know. Jesús rises again as an undead creature who is still determined to get the device back, but now his young granddaughter is in danger as well.
"Cronos" was the very first movie that Guillermo ever directed, and it's not surprising that it feels a little rough compared to his later work. But expect lots of del Toro trademarks -- mysterious golden items, insects, weird and grotesque vampirism, religious symbolism, and favored actors Luppi and Perlman.
The entire movie is beautifully directed, and del Toro paints every scene with shadows, gold and blood. And rather than going for over-the-top spookery, del Toro mingles vampiric horror (Jesus staring hungrily at his granddaughter) with more visceral psychological horror (Jesús returns to life with his mouth stitched shut). Even the gross-outs are subtle, like when we see that even Jesús' flesh is turning white and larvalike.
Federico Luppi is absolutely brilliant as Jesús -- he starts off as a genial, kindly old man with a love of antiques, but slowly he's eaten away by his lust for blood and addiction to the device. By the end of the movie, you only see a tiny flicker of what he was. Perlman gives a similarly awesome performance as a devious thug, and Claudio Brook is great as the dying businessman.
It took a long time, but this movie is FINALLY coming out in the Criterion catalog -- it will have a restored high-def digital transfer; del Toro's early short film "Geometria"; a tour of de Toro's house; audio commentaries by del Toro and the producers; video interviews with del Toro, Luppi, Navarro and Perlman, a stills gallery; trailer; new English subtitles; and a booklet with not only a Maitland McDonagh essay but del Toro's notes.
"Cronos" is a little more toned-down than Guillermo del Toro's later work, but it's still a powerful, haunting horror movie. An absolute must-see!