‘Pan’s Labyrinth’: Guillermo del Toro’s most ghoulish movie moments
After doing pretty well for himself at the 2018 Academy Awards, visionary director Guillermo del Toro signed a deal with Fox Searchlight that will see him writing, producing, and directing future features for the studio. The Fox division also created a new label to “serve as a home for projects in the horror, sci-fi, and fantasy genres, including those produced and curated by del Toro.”
Obviously this was exciting news for fans of genre movies and of del Toro’s work. The award-winning director sounded understandably hyped about it too.
“For the longest time, I’ve hoped to find an environment in which I can distribute, nurture, and produce new voices in smart inventive genre films and channel my own. In Fox Searchlight, I’ve found a real home for live action production — a partnership based on hard work, understanding of each other, and above all, faith.”
The first project to be made under the deal will be Antlers – a supernatural thriller directed by Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) which del Toro will produce. Telling the story of an elementary school teacher who takes in a troubled student only to discover he’s harboring a mysterious and deadly family secret, the movie has potential to be another in a long line of haunting genre joints del Toro has produced.
Though the filmmaker has helmed a number of iconic horror and fantasy movies, he’s also written and produced several flicks and even brought a few TV shows to fruition (including Trollhunters & The Strain).
Whether he’s making the movies himself or working on them behind the scenes, there’s no question del Toro has the magic touch when it comes to genre movies. Here are nine of his best moments, comprising films and shows he’s written, directed, and produced throughout his vivid career.
The Pale Man: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Supremely iconic, del Toro’s greedy Pan’s Labyrinth creation was apparently devised to “represent the church.” However, the subsequent monster developed from that idea was more harrowing than anyone on set apparently anticipated.
Per the NY Daily News, “I thought it would be powerful to use the hands with stigmata and then you put eyes on it. But although I had the idea and knew how it was going to operate, when we saw it on the set with the makeup on actor Doug Jones, everybody froze and we went, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing.’”
Angel of Death: Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
Although he’s not on screen for long, the Angel of Death is undeniably a signature del Toro creation who leaves an indelible impression. Brought to life by del Toro’s ever-reliable man-behind-the-monster Doug Jones, the Angel of Death is a gothic vision with heavy overbearing wings and a hushed ancient frailty.
Apparently the filmmaker based his vision for the harbinger of doom on a doodle he made in 1994 for another project. “It was inspired by a Mexican painting in a church, where archangels have eyes in every feather. I took a note. I was in a church and I drew it in my notebook and it stayed there. It was dormant until I was able to afford the mechanical eyes and the wings, and all that stuff. I thought, ‘That would be a great Angel of Death.’”
Ghosts in the floor: Crimson Peak (2015)
The twist-filled gothic romance is full of jaw-dropping set pieces but this particular moment is especially ghoulish & grand. Showing Edith (Mia Wasikowska) encountering a crimson howling ghost that emanates from the floorboards and proceeds to drag her clippled body forwards, the scene is full of beguiling secrets and unspoken devastation.
Cancelling the apocalypse: Pacific Rim (2013)
Bringing a surprising element of emotion to a movie ostensibly about a bunch of gloriously hench humans piloting monster-battling kaiju, the moment in Pacific Rim in which Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) makes an inspiring speech about “cancelling the apocalypse” is one of the movie’s finest moments.
Devised by del Toro to be “like a proclamation of, ‘Listen, man. If I’m going to fucking die, hey, here it is,’” the scene gave the movie its hero moment, which Elba revealed to Gizmodo he had to do multiple times to get right. “That presents challenges, when you get lines like that. You know, you want them to feel and sound real.”
Santi’s ghost: The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Written, directed, and produced by the filmmaker, del Toro’s horrifying coming-of-age story offers a tragic look at “The One Who Sighs” – a child spectre whose flaking white head is crowned by a swirl of floating blood.
In meeting the ghostly figure, Carlos (the newly-orphaned lead character of the movie) is faced with this haunting representation of his own lost innocence in a moment as terrifying as it is heartbreaking. The ghostly child looks to be trapped in the torment of his own death just as Carlos is trapped in the grief of his parents passing.
Reaper fight: Blade II (2002)
Proving he’s as innovative with modernizing classic monsters as he is with inventing his own, del Toro’s mercilessly horrific vision of vampires during Blade II’s Reaper fight is one of the freshest takes on vampires in cinema history.
Showing the blood-guzzling fiends unhinging their jaws to reveal three sets of fangs along with a toothy parasitic mouth at the center (go big or go home, vamps), there’s a whole host of twitching teeth and festering flesh on show. Adding to the moment is Blade (Wesley Snipes) making the difficult decision to put himself in league with his enemies in a bid to save humanity.
Lab encounter: The Shape of Water (2017)
While many will suggest the dance sequence or underwater love scene are the standout moments from the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water, del Toro’s masterful setup in the initial lab encounter scene is not to be overlooked.
Simultaneously introducing the sinister villainy of Richard (Michael Shannon), the sweet-natured inquisitive eye of Elisa (Sally Hawkins), and the pained captivity of the mysterious Amphibian Man (Jones), the scene sets up a forbidden love story with extremely high stakes.
Bloodthirsty: Cronos (1993)
Have you ever been so thirsty you’d be willing to lick water off the bathroom floor? Nah, us neither. But in Cronos, newly-immortal Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi) is so thirsty for blood he gets down on his knees and licks one diminutive drop off the shiny marble floor of a public bathroom. It’s a simple but memorable moment in a movie full of deliciously ghastly imagery.
Credit sequence: The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXIV
The credits sequence and couch gag del Toro directed for The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror XXIV is a horror movie fan’s dream. Loaded with ghastly Easter eggs (Alfred Hitchcock! Harryhausen’s Cyclops! The Phantom of the Opera!) and sneaky references to iconic moments from del Toro’s own movies, the sequence is worth multiple rewatches in itself.
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, del Toro revealed he was like a kid at Christmas reimagining the iconic credits sequence. “I really wanted to land the connections between the (show’s) set pieces and the titles and some of the most iconic horror movies, and intersperse them with some of my stuff in there for pure joy . . .
“To use Chief Wiggum as the Cyclops from Harryhausen, dipping the (Lard Lad) donut in a water tank, to have the nuclear spill from Mr. Burns’s plant create zombies — all of this stuff seems to make sense to interconnect. If Homer really gets a radioactive isotope, he could turn into a reaper from Blade . . . . It was a unique opportunity.”