Every horror fan remembers their first experience with the genre: The moment you felt your heart nearly jump out of your chest, every inch of your skin crawling, waiting in anticipation for what’s coming next. Perhaps it was Halloween or Friday the 13th that made you a fan of the genre. Or perhaps, it was a class of horror all its own, filled with creatures and monsters that emerge from the deepest, darkest corners of your nightmares — that would best describe the world of Guillermo del Toro. The Mexican film director, screenwriter, producer, and novelist is known for his high-key obsession with all things dark, mysterious and most of all, monstrous. Del Toro’s films are influenced by his strict Catholic upbringing and his unyielding obsession with everything nightmarish, not to mention his Mexico. His house, called Bleak House, homes all of his props, which there are so many of that the Los Angeles County Museum of Art was able to make a whole exhibit out of them with pieces to spare.
So come dive into the world of Guillermo del Toro with these six movies that will leave you feeling uneasy in the best way possible.
Perhaps one of GDT’s best pieces, Pan’s Labyrinth takes place in 1940’s Spain five years after the Spanish Civil War. It follows a girl named Ofelia and her pregnant mother Carmen as they move to live with Ofelia’s new stepfather, who’s a captain in the army, and also very much a horrible man. Ofelia is led on a journey into the land of the fairy, where the line between what’s real and what’s not are blurred. When Ofelia is told she’s actually the daughter of the king of the underworld, things start getting a little more confusing. Add in three tasks that need to be completed (in true fairy tale fashion,) a faun and some more fairies all plastered against the beginnings of a guerrilla uprising, and you have Pan’s Labyrinth. Expect plenty of monsters and to cry a lot.
One look at Hellboy and you’ll understand how good GDT is at what he does. The movie is loosely based on the graphic novel of the same name, and chronicles the journey of a demon turned superhero named Hellboy. Although he seems terrifying, evil and all around scary (good job, Guillermo,) he’s actually the one keeping the world safe from paranormal threat. Mix this with other supernatural weirdos, like Liz Sherman, who has pyrokinetic abilities, and Abe Sapien, a “humanoid amphibious” man, throw in a short temper, portals and the supernatural and you get GDT’s classic film.
Cronos was GDT’s first feature film and starts way back in time — in 1536. An Alchemist in Veracruz finds a way to become immortal but in 1937 he dies after a building collapses and his heart is pierced by debris. Fast forward to modern day when antique dealer Jesus Gris finds a a 400-year-old scarab beetle called Cronos which grants eternal life but also gives him a strange urge…for blood. Unfortunately, Jesus isn’t the only one who wants to get his hands on the scarab.. someone else is also looking for Cronos as well. Imaginably, this causes a few issues for both parties, and the rest you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Taking the idea of monsters in a new direction, Pacific Rim melds an alternate universe with the one we know today, when long ago, monsters called Kaiju arose from a portal at the bottom of the ocean and brought war and mass destruction. As a defense, humankind created Jaegers, which are controlled by a pair of humans locked together by a “neural bridge,” in an attempt to protect themselves from the sea monsters. The movie follows pilot Raleigh Becket and Mako Mori as they try to finally defeat the Kaiju.
5The Devil’s Backbone
Another of GDT’s gothic masterpieces, The Devil’s Backbone is the story of 12-year-old Carlos who is sent to an orphanage after his father dies in the Spanish Civil War. But everything is not as it seems (is it ever as it seems in Guillermo’s world though?) The home has many dark and haunted secrets that Carlos must uncover, like the story of a boy named Santi who went missing the day a bomb appeared near the orphanage. Del Toro also considers this his most personal film so you know it’s going to be messed up, in a good way of course!
Although it’s not GDT’s best plot, the visuals alone in this film make it worth the watch. Crimson Peak follows Edith and her new husband, Sir Thomas Sharpe as they return to his gothic mansion in the English hills. There, Edith meets his sister Lady Lucille who seems as if she’s hiding something. Edith is visited by spirits with a stark and worried message that she can’t seem to decode. With over-the-top costumes, stunning scenery and a house that will give you the creeps, this gothic fairy tale could only be pulled off by GDT himself.