Archive for Frankenstein

Great Directors Of Our Time: Guillermo del Toro

Posted in Horror Articles with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2010 by Pass the Popcorn!

Partially inspired by my post about Mr. Romero , I decided to write a post about one of the greatest directors ouf our time: Guillermo del Toro.  Guillermo’s movies are often associated with disturbing fantasy elements and dark atmospheres – so it’s no wonder I consider him to be one of the most influential modern horror movie directors. Often working with Ron Perlman, Doug Jones and Federico Luppi, del Toro managed to create quite a few classics through out his carrier – like the Hellboy movies, El Espinazo del Diablo and, of course, El Laberinto del Fauno. Let’s not, however, forget his other movies which are also great…

Mini Biography: “Guillermo Del Toro was born October 9, 1964 in Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. Raised by his Catholic grandmother, del Toro developed an interest in filmmaking in his early teens. Later, he learned about makeup and effects from the legendary Dick Smith (The Exorcist (1973)) and worked on making his own short films. At the age of 21, del Toro executive produced his first feature, Dona Herlinda and Her Son (1986). del Toro spent almost 10 years as a makeup supervisor, and formed his own company, Necropia in the early 1980s. He also produced and directed Mexican television programs at this time, and taught film…”

Cronos (1993): “…del Toro got his first big break when Cronos (1993) won nine academy awards in Mexico, then went on to win the International Critics Week prize at Cannes…”

Cronos, a strange horror movie with elements of a vampire flick, was Del Toro’s definite breakthrough into the movie making industry. Although Cronos’ plot may seem a little simple and naive, the movie, itself, is very fascinating, original and fun to watch. Very early in his career Guillermo decided to use some very disturbing images to shock the average viewer – let’s just say some parts of the movie resemble of Nine Inch Nails’ Happiness in Slavery video. Besides that, Cronos features some great make up effects and interesting camera angles. It also marks the first Perlman/del Toro collaboration. Ironically, the most disappointing thing in the whole movie was Perlman’s performance which I found to be rather weak. But nevertheless, Cronos is an overlooked cult movie in the “vampire” genre.

Trivia:

  • Guillermo del Toro started writing on the script as early as 1984, where it was titled “Vampire of the Grey Dawn”.
  • The film went over budget from the original $1,5 million to $2 million (the highest budget for a Mexican movie at the time). del Toro himself got the half million through loans and bank debts. In order to complete the film, changes had to be made, among those changes were Ron Perlman, who agreed to a heavy salary cut. Perlman and del Toro has been good friends ever since, working together frequently.
  • Guillermo del Toro met with Universal in late ’93, where they told him they wanted to buy the rights to this film so they could remake it. del Toro’s response was “Who wants to see Jack Lemmon lick blood off a bathroom floor?”.

My Rating: 7/10

Mimic (1997): “…Following this success, del Toro made his first Hollywood film, Mimic (1997), starring Mira Sorvino. del Toro had some unfortunate experiences working with a demanding Hollywood studio on Mimic (1997), and returned to Mexico to form his own production company, The Tequila Gang… “

“I remember the worst experience of my life, even above the kidnapping of my father, was shooting Mimic (1997). Because what was happening to me and the movie was far more illogical than kidnapping, which is brutal, but at least there are rules. Now when I look at Mimic, what I see is the pain of a deeply flawed creature that could have been so beautiful.”  – Guillermo del Toro

Guillermo del Toro “States Mimic (1997) as the worst of his films and has disowned it, blaming constant interference from the producers as the reason for the poor result” and I have to agree with him. Mimic could have been so much more but it turned out to be your average, unintentionally funny, b movie sf flick.  Characters are ridiculous, the plot is whatsoever and the acting is far from enjoyable – I don’t even consider Mimic to be a del Toro movie because of all the interference from the producers so I won’t spend much time reviewing it. The whole result is just poor, but nevertheless, Mimic gained a semi-cult following through out the years and even spawned 2 sequels;  some people even consider it to be the best horror movie set in a subway.  However, Mimic is a very poor movie and should best be skipped.

Trivia:

  • Originally planned as a single 30-min. short as part of a feature of sci-fi/horror/comedy shorts by Miramax. The other segments also grew into the features Impostor (2001) and Alien Love Triangle (1999).
  • Director Guillermo del Toro disowned the film after constant clashes with Bob Weinstein, who would frequently visit the set and make unreasonable demands about what should be shot, deviating away from the script. Since then del Toro has never worked with the Weinsteins.
  • The scene where Mira Sorvino and Jeremy Northam walk in the hall with all the sick kids lying in their beds was actually directed by Ole Bornedal, one of the producers on the film.

My Rating: 6/10 … Although my rating isn’t that bad, the movie is.

The Devil’s Backbone aka El Espinazo del Diablo (2001): “…del Toro had some unfortunate experiences working with a demanding Hollywood studio on Mimic (1997), and returned to Mexico to form his own production company, The Tequila Gang. Next for del Toro, was The Devil’s Backbone (2001), a Spanish Civil War ghost story. The film was hailed by critics and audiences alike, and del Toro decided to give Hollywood another try…”

There isn’t much to say about El Espinazo del Diablo except it is an absolutely great ghost story – very dark and imaginative.  All of this makes The Devil’s Backbone an instant classic. My full review of it can be found here.

Trivia:

  • The film came together when Guillermo del Toro bumped into Pedro Almodóvar at the 1994 Miami Film Festival where he had just shown Cronos (1993). Almodovar told him that he had just seen his film and wanted to produce his next movie.
  • Described by Guillermo del Toro as being a sibling film to Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) (this being the masculine “brother” film, and Pan’s as the feminine “sister” film).
  • Guillermo del Toro wrote the film when he was in college.
  • Guillermo del Toro has said that this is his favorite movie of his own (2003).

My Rating: 8/10

Blade II (2002): “In 2002, he directed the Wesley Snipes vampire sequel, Blade II (2002)…”

I think all of you are familiar with the blade series so I don’t need to further introduce it. My opinion is that Blade II is maybe the most important movie in del Toro’s carrier. First of all, it was his first major commercial success and second of all, it was the first superhero movie he directed, preparing him to direct Hellboy (2004).  I must inform you, if you haven’t watched already, that Blade II is much more different than its precursor Blade (1998) which makes it an even better movie. Al though it is full with HUGE plot holes and some ridiculous action scenes, Blade II is much more darker and more “del Toro like” – creepy atmosphere, interesting performance by Ron Perlman (he was the highlight of the movie),  great Reaper vampires, vampire clubs are also more darker, etc.  All in all, it’s more of a horror movie than an action movie – unlike the first Blade.

Trivia:

  • When Blade returns to his headquarters early in the movie, Scud remarks, “The Dark Knight Returns!” This is a reference to another comic book character that hunts by night, Batman, who was the subject of a classic comic book miniseries.
  • Reinhardt’s (Ron Perlman) sunglasses are never taken off throughout the course of the film.
  • In the scene before while entering the vampire club with the Bloodpack, a large neon sign can be seen on top of a building that says in large red letters “Radoo”. In the history of Vlad the Impaler (who the legend of Dracula is largely based) history talks of his brother Radu. This name is also often associated with vampire movies as it is deeply ingrained in the Dracula story.
  • Over 30 members of the cast and crew were temporarily blinded by the misuse of UV lights in the vampire autopsy scene.
  • The only movie in the Blade trilogy that used its original written ending. Blade (1998) and Blade: Trinity (2004) went through reshoots to improve and/or replace their respective original climaxes.

My Rating: 7/10

Hellboy (2004): “…On a roll, Del Toro followed up Blade II (2002) with another successful comic-book inspired film, Hellboy (2004), starring one of Del Toro’s favorite actors, Ron Perlman.”

Guillermo del Toro “Turned down a chance to direct Blade: Trinity (2004), AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) to work on his dream project: Hellboy (2004).

He even “Fought the film studios for almost seven years to get Ron Perlman for the title role in Hellboy (2004). The studio wanted a bigger name to ensure the success of the movie, but del Toro thought that Perlman was the perfect choice and wouldn’t make the movie if he wasn’t cast.”

After Blade II, del Toro managed to direct his dream project – Hellboy. Hellboy is more than a decent superhero movie starring great Ron Perlman who made it his most recognizable role. The movie also features one of the most memorable villains seen on the big screen – Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (played by Ladislav Beran). He is a nazi half human, half robot who seems to be immortal. Although he isn’t the main villain nor has plenty screen time, he stole every movie with his appearance which makes him the best aspect of the whole movie.  Besides, Hellboy and Kroenen, the character who stands out is Abe Sapien played by great Doug Jones. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast and characters seem pretty average, especially Rupert Evans who plays John Myers, a new agent to the “Bureau of paranormal research”. In despite of some great character designs  and decent action scenes, special effect were pretty lousy from time to time (particularly in some scenes near the end). Furthermore, the whole plot in the movie isn’t somewhat original – just your typical super hero stuff. However, Hellboy still is a pretty good movie.

Trivia:

  • Doug Jones’s (Abe Sapien) voice was dubbed by David Hyde Pierce, but Pierce refused a credit, because he felt that Abe was entirely Doug’s creation and did not wish to detract from his performance.
  • Baby Hellboy, Sammael, Ivan the corpse, Train Driver and Kroenen were all voiced by Guillermo del Toro.
  • Upon meeting to discuss the movie, Hellboy creator Mike Mignola and director Guillermo del Toro decided to reveal to each other their choice for the lead role of Hellboy. They both said at the same time, Ron Perlman.
  • Much of the demonology in the film is inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos developed by H.P. Lovecraft, a horror writer in the 1930s. The Sammael creatures have characteristics of both Nyarlathotep and Cthulhu. Elder gods, many eyed and tentacled, sleeping at the edge of the universe, are a staple of his books.

My Rating: 7/10

Pan’s Labyrinth aka El Laberinto del Fauno (2006):

We finally came to del Toro’s most famous and most successful movie which even won 3 Oscars – El Laberinto del Fauno.

“That’s what I love about fairy tales; they tell the truth, not organized politics, religion or economics. Those things destroy the soul. That is the idea from Pan’s Labyrinth and it surfaces in Hellboy and, to some degree, in all my films.” – Guillermo del Toro

Is there anything more to say about El Laberinto del Fauno that you don’t already know? It is a great and powerful fairy tale which isn’t very suitable for children because of its twisted storytelling and often disturbing scenes. Set in the Spanish civil war, del Toro tells us a story about a girl, Ofelia, who must perform 3 tasks to achieve the prophecy of her becoming the princess of a distant surreal fantasy world – a world completely different than the horrors currently surrounding her. Character design in El Laberinto del Fauno, just like in Hellboy, is visually astonishing. Most noteable character here are, of course, the Fauno and the Pale Man, both played by Doug Jones. I’d go even that far to say that the scene with the Pale Man is one of the scariest in the modern movie history. Anyways, El Laberinto del Fauno is one hell of a ride – it’s sad, beautiful, visually perfect, brutal, scary, disturbed, dark, interesting etc., etc. and all of this makes it Guillermo del Toro’s best movie. Kudos!

Trivia:

  • Guillermo del Toro gave up his entire salary, including back-end points, to see this film become realized.
  • Received 22 minutes of applause at the Cannes Film Festival.
  • The English subtitles were translated and written by Guillermo del Toro himself. He no longer trusts translators after having encountered problems with his previous subtitled movies.
  • Stephen King attended a screening of the film and sat next to Guillermo del Toro. According to Del Toro, King squirmed when the Pale Man chased Ofelia. Del Toro compared the experience of seeing King’s reaction to winning an Oscar.
  • It has been said that, for the fairy eating scene, Doug Jones had to bite condoms filled with fake blood.

My Rating: 8/10

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008):

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) is del Toro’s latest movie, an interesting sequel to the Hellboy (2004).

Guillermo del Toro “Turned down a chance to direct I Am Legend (2007), One Missed Call (2008), Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) and Halo (2012) to work on Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008).”

“I think that 50 percent of the narrative is in the audio/visual storytelling. I happened to think the screenplay is the basis of it all, but definitely doesn’t tell the movie. It tells the story, but doesn’t tell the whole movie. A lot of the narrative is in the details.” – Guillermo del Toro

Hellboy II would quite easily be my favourite super hero movie. Although pretty unoriginal and predictable in its storyline which sometimes seems pretty silly, the movie is visually astonishing and fascinating. Guillermo del Toro’s once again introduces us with distant fantasy worlds filled with interesting creatures (especially The Troll Market) with most of their designs purely spawned by himself. The Golden Army also features one new character who works for the “Bureau of paranormal research” – Johann Krauss. He is pure human “ectoplasma” (?) stuffed in a robot suit which makes him pretty interesting already. His and Hellboy’s interacting was definitely one of the most fun aspects of the movie. All in all, Hellboy II: The Golden Army is another great Guillermo del Toro movie and I sure as hell hope he makes much more of them.

Trivia:

  • The movie mentions Bethmoora, a city in the fiction of the early 20th century visionary writer Lord Dunsany. Also note that the Golden Army is hidden in Ireland, Dunsany’s homeland. The term “glamour” used for the fairies’ cloaking skill also originates in Dunsany’s “The King of Elfland’s Daughter”.
  • Guillermo del Toro wrote an ending which ultimately went unused in the theatrical release: A secret base is found in the Antarctic, where Kroenen, the clockwork Nazi villain from the first film, is brought back to life as Rasputin steps out of the shadows. This material was filmed as an animated comic and appears in the DVD bonus features as the “Zinco Epilogue”. This epilogue provides the setup for a potential third Hellboy film.
  • Just like the first film, none of the cast member’s names are written on the posters, mentioned in the trailers or shown in the opening credits.
  • After reading it in his manual/ancient lore book, Abe calls Tooth Faires “Carcarodon Carcharias”. Actually, that is the scientific name of the Great White Shark.
  • David Hyde Pierce did the voice of Abe Sapien in the first film, while Doug Jones played the physical part. For Hellboy II, Jones also does the voice. The reason is because the producers hoped Pierce’s name would make the first film a box-office smash. But he refused to be credited because he felt Abe Sapien was Jones’ work, and as such did no promotions or interviews, or even attended the premiere.

My Rating: 8/10

Future Work:

Well, unfortunately, Guillermo del Toro won’t be directing The Hobbit parts 1 and 2 after all which I found to be a shame. The Hobbit, overally, is a much more darker story than the original LOTR trilogy so I, personally, think it would have had suit del Toro’s style perfectly.

But don’t you worry, del Toro fans! Guillermo is set to direct his version of the Frankenstein (2012) starring Doug Jones as the Creature and an ecranization of a H.P.Lovecraft novel, At the Mountains of Madness (2013) with Ron Perlman starring as Larson. I think we have 2 great movies ahead of us. Can’t wait!

All additional information, trivia and quotes quotes were take from IMDB.

Drugs Bunny

Advertisements