The Beauty And The Horror – The films Of Guillermo Del toro

Much of the imagery in the films of Guillermo Del Toro is at once disturbing and yet simultaneously beautiful – horrific creatures and monsters, conjured from the depths of the blackest nightmares and yet, strangely, there is a sort of… beauty in their movements, even as they sometimes move to annihilate the planet. And so it is then that Guillermo DelToro has carved a niche for himself in an industry slowly reaching a saturation point in terms of been-there-done-that attempts to shock, scare and generally make viewers feel that unsettling feeling of discomfort that is often taken as a hallmark of any horror or fantasy film. Hard to believe then, that DelToro was raised in an unflinchingly religious setting – his devoutly Catholic grandmother’s house in Guadalajara, Mexico. A fan of the classic monsters of cinema (Universal’s Dracula, Frankenstein, Mummy, etc.) as a child, DelToro expanded his knowledge of movie monsters and horror beyond the classics and started to watch films by George Romero, Mario Bava and much of the classic British Hammer horror films. All of these, plus his own vivid imagination, would fuel much of the imagery in his own films later.

Although he executive produced his first film (Dona Herlinda and Her Son, 1986) at the young age of 21, he would spend the next decade as a make-up supervisor and would parlay this experience into forming his own company, Necropia, in the early to mid 80’s. During this time he also took directing jobs for various television projects and did some teaching about film via various workshops. The 1993 film ‘Cronos’, was an imaginative take on the vampire genre and netted him the critic’s prize at that year’s Cannes Film Festival, and it was also his directing debut. While serving on the selection committees for both the Sundance Film Festival and the Independent Spirit Awards he developed his follow up to ‘Cronos’, 1997’s ‘Mimic’. It was clear to many that DelToro had arrived as a film maker in the horror genre, even though he was unhappy with the Hollywood system he had worked under while making the movie Mimic. In the wake of Mimic, Del Toro returned to Mexico and formed his own production company, ‘The Tequila Gang’ and set out to make a thriller that was far more personal than Mimic had been, the critically acclaimed ‘The Devil’s Backbone’.

Satisfied with The Devil’s Backbone, Del Toro was now ready to try Hollywood again with everything he learned from his experience with Mimic informing his decisions. Thanks to his visual flair and storytelling expertise he was next to work on the second film in Marvel’s ‘Blade’ series; a film considered by many to be the best of the franchise. ‘Hellboy’ was another one of his projects that received critical and box office success; Del Toro ingeniously adapted a comic book to the big screen with outstanding results.

After Hellboy, Del Toro returned to the themes of childhood innocence and oppression visited in The Devil’s Backbone with the visually fantastic (and frightening) Pan’s Labyrinth. Merging real life atrocities with a psychological depth not seen in any of his previous films, Pan’s Labyrinth was a crossover success for Del Toro – he wowed and impressed both art house and mainstream audiences successfully and gained multiple Academy Award nominations for his efforts. Presently, DelToro is readying two features, ‘Pacific Rim’ which features large scale, human operated robots defending Earth against massive sea monsters, and a new version of Universal’s classic Frankenstein.

 

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