In his nearly 30-year career, Guillermo del Toro has become one of the masters of dark fantasy in Hollywood. The Mexican filmmaker, who was influenced by Alfred Hitchcock, has directed and/or produced some of the most memorable sci-fi horror films and ghost stories ever made, including Mimic, The Orphanage and Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. And, he’s back as the executive producer of the scarefest Mama.
Opening this Friday, the film centers on two young girls who wind up stranded in an abandoned cabin where they somehow manage to survive for five years until they are found, as well as the ghostly presence who “mothered” them for five years. It’s the latest creature in del Toro’s long history of bringing to life some of the spooktacular monsters and monstrosities on film. Here’s a look at del Toro’s greatest creations.
And you thought cockroaches were disgusting… In del Toro’s sci-fi horror film Mimic, an entomologist genetically creates an insect to kill cockroaches carrying a powerful disease. But three years after succeeding in killing the pests, the insects, called the Judas Breed, are out destroy their only predator, mankind! But that’s not all… The insects have grown to be as big as humans and can mimic their appearance and behavior with uncanny accuracy. “I have a sort of a fetish for insects, clockwork, monsters, dark places, and unborn things," said del Toro of creating the creepy creatures.
In Guillermo del Toro’s Mexican vampire horror film Cronos, which he wrote and directed, a mysterious device provides its owner with eternal life after resurfacing after 400 years, leaving a trail of destruction in its path. It may not look too scary, but the ornate, golden, beetle-shaped device unfurls spider-like legs that grip the owner tightly, and it inserts a needle into his skin that injects him with an unidentified solution. A living insect — entombed within the device and meshed with the internal clockwork — produces the solution.
Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006
In the Oscar-winning film Pan’s Labyrinth, del Toro creates several frightening creatures that interact with the film’s main character, Ofelia. But two really stand out! The first is a mysterious faun creature who gives Ofelia three tasks to complete before the full moon to ensure that her "essence is intact." Toro got the idea of the faun from childhood experiences with "lucid dreaming". He stated on The Charlie Rose Show that every midnight, he would wake up, and a faun would gradually step out from behind the grandfather's clock. Originally, the faun was supposed to be a classic half-man, half-goat faun fraught with beauty. But in the end, the faun was altered into a goat-faced creature almost completely made out of earth, moss, vines, and tree bark. He became a mysterious, semi-suspicious relic.
Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006
del Toro’s second standout creature in Pan’s Labyrinth – probably the film’s most terrifying – is the the child-eating creature known only as the Pale Man. Although he’s blind, the monstrosity possesses a pair of eyes that fit into slits in the palms of his hands in order to better stalk his prey. Sitting at the head of the table at an untouched feast, presumably left as bait to entice unwary children, the Pale Man sits eternally in wait for his next meal.
The Devil’s Backbone, 2001
Holy Santi, that’s one scary child-ghost! In the del-Toro directed gothic horror film The Devil’s Backbone, the child protagonist has visions of a mysterious apparition he can't identify, and hears strange stories about a child named Santi who went missing the day a bomb exploded near a local orphanage. Set during the final year of the Spanish Civil War, has been described as “a gut-wrenching portrait of childhood in a time of war and a skin-crawling, evocative nightmare.”
Sure Ron Perlman’s titular character in del Toro’s supernatural superhero film Hellboy could be considered ghastly. But he’s nothing compared to scientist-turned merman Langdon Everett Caul, who is called Abe Sapien after an accident with a strange jellyfish-like deity from an underwater ruin turns him into an icthyo sapien. And while he’s considered a merman, he looks nothing like the ones seen in The Little Mermaid.
Blade II, 2002
If you’re a fan of The Vampire Diaries or True Blood, then you’ll find nothing hot or sexy about the “reaper vampires” in del Toro’s Blade II. These creatures in the Mexican filmmaker’s vampire superhero film are nothing short of terrifying. The reason: they have a 'three-way' jaw, in which the two sides of the lower jaw split apart at the chin. The left and right sides of the lower jaw have fangs that inject a neurotoxin to paralyze their victims while feeding. And their mouth has overdeveloped masseter muscles which allow a much stronger bite.
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, 2011
I hope the Tooth Fairy doesn’t look anything like the malevolent creatures, called homunculi, in the del Toro-produced horror film Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark! The creatures, described as being like tooth fairies, demand the teeth of children. And every now and again they turn a human into one of their own! Del Toro has said that he always begins his creations with what he calls “the National Geographic approach.” He starts with a nightmarish idea, and then looks to nature for details. “You want to make the creatures outlandish enough that they’ll thrill the imagination,” he says, “but recognizable enough that they feel real.”
In the sci-fi horror film Splice, which del Toro executive-produced, a young genetic scientist couple hopes to achieve fame by successfully splicing together the DNA of different animals to create new hybrid animals for medical use. But their experiments go terribly awry, leaving behind death and destruction at the hands of their latest “specimen.” Dren, as it is called, is an oh-so-bloodcurdling hybrid of many species that grows and learns at an accelerated rate, can breathing amphibiously and live underwater, and ultimately scare the bejesus out of you!
Pacific Rim, 2013
While we haven’t seen a clear view of the monsters in del Toro’s highly anticipated sci-fi film Pacific Rim, we’re pretty sure they’ll be colossally creepy, given the Mexican filmmakers penchant for creating horrifying beasts. The film takes place in a world where soldiers piloting giant robots battle against invading giant monsters, called Kaiju, that have arisen from a crevice in the Pacific Ocean. del Toro has said the film will be "a beautiful poem to giant monsters."