As imaginative as the title of this blog post is, this film is much more imaginative than that, believe it or not! Cronos, aka La Invención de Cronos, is exactly what H.P. Lovecraft would’ve ordered on Amazon Prime for another quiet night in. It’s a beautifully made film released in 1993 by Guillermo Del Toro, a then young misfit special effects makeup artist and short film director who spent eight years trying to get this movie made.
The film starts prophetically in 1536, where an old alchemist creates a device, part watch, part supernatural insect, part grandmother’s broach. The device, Cronos, has the ability to grant eternal life. This is true because the voice over narrator says so. The alchemist, who created it to resemble an analog watch with its gears and ticking, uses it for four hundred years until he is killed by a building collapse in 1937. His fitting dying words were “suo tempore” translated from Latin as “one own’s time”.
The lost Cronos apparatus turns up again sixty years later in an antique dealer shop owned by Jesus Gris, an old man who lives a quiet life with his loving wife and sweet granddaughter, Aurora. His happy life gets turned upside down when a strange man wanders into his shop and discovers an antique Angel statue with one eye missing in Jesus’ inventory and runs off. Jesus inspects the statue further when cockroaches invade the base of the statue which leads him to find the Cronos. It then attaches itself to his hand, leaving him injuring and confused. Jesus soon finds himself younger and full of vigor. It isn’t long until he realizes why it’s a sought over artifact.
His antique shop quickly gets ransacked after Angel De La Guardia, played by Ron Perlman, buys the same statue to find it empty. All that’s left of his mess of a shop is a business card which leads him to De La Guardia’s uncle, a dying wealthy industrialist who, so I’ve been told, is not Hyman Roth. Jesus Gris then escapes De La Guardia just long enough to have Chronos hid by his young granddaughter. As the family is ringing in the new year at a party, De La Guardia abducts and kills Jesus. But how can he be killed if he’s immortal? He’s not dead! He breaks out of the crematorium and finds his granddaughter Aurora, who lovingly makes his bed in a toy chest after discovering that he burns when he’s exposed to sunlight and has a new penchant for blood.
What happens next is an artfully written third act where paying the price of eternal life leaves many consequences and an ultimate sacrifice. This film was Del Toro’s first feature film that won him the recognition and friendships from directors like James Cameron and Pedro Almodovar. A romantic ode to horror served in a Frankenstein/Dracula combo. Del Toro, who studied under legendary special effects makeup artist Dick Smith while making the film, even formed his own company, Necropia. The effects and gore go perfectly with this elegantly rich fabled story. All I gotta say is, come for the grotesque, stay for the beauty.