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Horror: Cronos

In an interview that I read recently CRONOS Director Guillermo del Toro spoke about his childhood memories of the original Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) – a film that del Toro has just remade. During the interview he remarked that “For many years this was the scariest movie I ever saw. It was like a myth of childhood.” He was speaking of a time when access to movies is nothing like today: There were no movie downloads (mostly because there was no internet… yeah, that’s right, BEFORE the internet), and there were no video stores. If you saw a movie when it aired on television or played at a cinema then the chance that you’d have the opportunity to see that movie again, any time soon, was extremely thin. As a result movies would rattle around in your brain, and if that movie were to have been particularly scary, then chances are it would find a dark corner of your noggin to take root in. Even though it’s only 15 years old, Cronos has been like that for me, and while I have had the luxury of video stores and downloads the opportunity to own a local release copy of this film on DVD has only recently presented itself.

Ultimately del Toro went on to say, in that interview, that his memory of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark far surpassed the movie itself, the frights that he’d felt when watching the movie as a child had grown with him. So when he saw the film again, as an adult, it was a little like returning to the family home and finding that everything seems much smaller than you remember it. Cronos suffers the same fate a little, but it remains a fascinating movie and hold up especially well when you consider how ‘samey’ vampire movies have become lately.

The Cronos Device was the creation of a fourteenth century alchemist and watchmaker, Humberto Oganelli. Designed to prolong the life of the user, the device served Organelle for four centuries, until he was found – his chest punctured – in the rubble of a collapsed building. Oganelli’s estate was sold off and parted out. Fifty years later, an elderly antique shop owner, Jesus Gris (Frederico Luppi), takes possession of an archangel statue. In the statue’s base Gris finds the inexplicable gold device.

Soon after the statue’s arrival a man named Angel (Ron Perlman) appears and purchases the statue for his millionaire uncle, De la Guardia (Claudio Brook). Angel’s brutal, but terminally ill, uncle has been searching for the statue for many years and knows of its hidden content. When he finds that the device has been removed, he sends Angel back to Gris’ store, but not before Gris’ curiosity has gotten the better of him and he has used the device.

In 1993 Cronos was nominated for eleven, and won eight, academy awards. At the time it was the highest budgeted movie ever to have been made in Mexico (meagre by Hollywood standards) and announced Guillermo del Toro to the world as an incredibly talented and passionate film maker.

Like the little boy returning to watch Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark as an adult, del Toro has returned to Cronos for a retrospective commentary. Were the film itself not so great, I’d still recommend this DVD to people based purely on this special feature (not to mention the other featurettes included with this release). He talks in detail about the production of the film, the lack of help / support that he received from the Mexican industry, about the concept and creation of the story and effects – particularly of the creation of the cronos device itself – and about the people who worked on the film with him. Most of whom have gone on to work on many of the movies that he’s made since.

If Cronos stands as an indication of del Toro’s burgeoning talent, the commentary shows that the man, whose talent has been proven time and again, is intelligent, self effacing, and humble. What Cronos also does is demonstrate that horror works best when it is thought about, rather than when the walls are sprayed with it. [source] [trailer]

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