JUNE 29, 2007
Despite being one of my favorite filmmakers, it took me over a decade to get around to seeing Guillermo Del Toro’s debut film, Cronos. Why, you may ask (assuming you have any interest in my laziness)? The answer is simple: Fangoria recommended it. Fangoria recommends only movies you’re SUPPOSED to like, and whichever ones make money. If you were to go to the library of horror (no such thing exists) and read a year’s worth of Fangoria editor Tony Timpone’s introductory columns, you’ll see he endlessly talks up just about every movie, and then at the end of the year, he shockingly only ‘likes’ the ones that did well financially. Since Cronos wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, I always assumed it was one of those films that you’re just expected to love if you're a horror fan, like Silence of the Lambs, Seven, and Exorcist (while they are all good, none of those films are anywhere near my top 10).
Shockingly, for Cronos anyway, they were pretty right on: it’s a great movie. It’s a testament to how good a filmmaker Del Toro is that he can take almost comically clichéd story elements (the powerful but dying man seeking a new lease on life, the antique shop that houses a magical device, etc) and make a film that never once seems derivative. Add this to the fact that I have otherwise had my fill of vampire movies lately, and you have a movie that no horror fan should ever pass by.
Even though it’s his first feature film, several of his recurring themes are here: a young child with enough curiosity to kill several cats, insects, a wise old man, Ron Perlman… In short, it in no way feels anything like a debut film. Again, that’s how good the guy is. It’s a damnable shame that his big studio films are often mishandled (it should surprise no one to realize his 3 weakest films are his “American” ones, i.e. Blade II, Hellboy, and Mimic). While perfectly serviceable genre films, they are always missing that dreamlike sense of wonder and discovery that make the others such a delight to watch. And not that Cronos or Pan or Devil’s Backbone (his best film) suffer from a low budget or anything, but I would truly love to see him be given a blank check and no interference, to see what he could come up with.
Also, while we’re on the subject, I’d like to see a guy eat a giant sandwich while trapezing.
What say you?