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- Bethan Sweeting
With the much anticipated release of ethereal Gothic romance Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro is set to reinforce his status as one of the most creative and visionary filmmakers who balances spine-chilling darkness, supernaturalism and humanity, resulting in resonating storytelling. From poetic and symbolic fairy tale elements to action packed superheroes, there is something for everyone in this director’s filmography. Check out our list of ten films by Guillermo del Toro you should watch.
Perhaps one of the only films of its kind, Cronos is a distinct and slightly niche Mexican vampire film. As del Toro’s first full-length feature, Cronos paved the way for his successful career showing his skills and brilliant execution of dark, gory genres. Paying homage to traditional and contemporary vampire films of its time, Cronos touches upon the traditional topic of the troubles of living as an immortal monster, following the racy and troublesome struggle of an alchemist-invented life-giving mechanism found in an antique shop.
Mimic is an American sci-fi movie, co-written and directed by Guillermo del Toro. The movie is a manifestation of his love of ‘insects, clockwork, monsters, dark places…’ Although originally released in 1997, del Toro released his director’s cut in 2011, a version which he is said to be a lot happier with. A grotesque inclusion of disease-riddled cockroaches and the mayhem that ensues as a result of genetically modified creatures, Mimic is a familiar sci-fi crisis movie which del Toro manages to present as new and exciting.
The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Written and directed by del Toro, The Devil’s Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo) pre-empts themes prevalent in the later released Pan’s Labyrinth. With a dark exploration of the Spanish civil war and the struggles of being an orphaned child, the ghostly elements in this film add to the story in a way that doesn’t take away from the serious and harsh realities surrounding the civil war. Del Toro’s direction and focus on gloomy elements makes for an atmospheric and poignant feature.
Blade II (2002)
Blade II, the second film in the Blade Trilogy, was del Toro’s opportunity to present his distinctive style as a director to a wider audience than his previous work. Based on the Marvel comic book character and continuing the story of protagonist anti-hero vampire, Blade, Blade II is considered the most popular movie in the trilogy and stands alone as a movie. Fast-paced action shots and futuristic settings comprise del Toro’s signature direction of this snappy vampire movie.
An underrated American superhero blockbuster, Hellboy is far from a clichéd comic book adaptation. Del Toro includes rich religious symbolism throughout the movie, a recurring theme in his work and a prominently relevant one in a story line about a demon conjured by the Nazis during the Second World War. With satisfying grit, convincingly evil bad guys, an unconventional outcast hero and the beautiful acting talent of John Hurt, Hellboy is an action-packed superhero movie which sets itself apart from the conventional layout of movies of similar genre.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Arguably Guillermo del Toro’s best movie, which set him apart as an iconic visionary director, writer and producer, Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno) is a story of tragic beauty laced with magical touches and faint traces of hope. Del Toro juxtaposes the naivety of young Ofelia with the harsh brutalities of the Spanish civil war, and tells a heartbreaking tale of a young child’s escapism in the midst of misfortune. The inclusion of monsters both supernatural and human enforces resonating messages regarding the power balance between good and evil. Lyrically Spanish and with a stunning musical score by Javier Navarette, this movie with a mysterious dialectic between psychological fantasy and true existence of other worlds remains intriguingly open-ended.
The Orphanage (2007)
With its well executed Spanish horror and Guillermo del Toro’s involvement as Executive Producer, The Orphanage (El Orfanato) balances the perfect amount of suspense, historic back story and the eerie mystery of a child’s games with ‘imaginary’ friends. With the welcomed subtleties of a thriller which stays away from cheap tacky Hollywood scares, The Orphanage layers brilliantly tense music, convincing acting, the right amount of unexplained paranormal activity and a wholly unexpected plot twist to form a terrifying and enjoyable viewing experience.
Julia’s Eyes (2010)
Produced by Guillermo del Toro, Julia’s Eyes (Los Ojos de Julia) is so pungent with suspense it offers no opportunity to sit comfortably. Intelligently edited to be depictive of the protagonist’s degenerative eye disease, the dark and blurry imagery is reminiscent of a frustrating nightmare with an overwhelming feeling of impotence. A plot line based on a murder mystery with no involvement of supernatural theme, Julia’s Eyes has an utterly spine-chilling, nauseating fear factor as it could convincingly happen in real life. Subtitled but wholly worth concentrating on this film is a rewardingly brilliant thriller and a stylistically ground-breaking sensory journey.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Originally planned to be made under del Toro’s direction, Peter Jackson ended up directing The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as well as the sequels, The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies. Despite disputes which resulted in del Toro’s departure from the project he was heavily involved in the movie and is credited for the screenplay. Controversies surrounding the Hobbit Trilogy set aside, this movie is an enjoyable adaptation of J.R.R Tolkien’s prequel to The Lord of the Rings.
Pacific Rim (2013)
A science-fiction blockbuster, Pacific Rim provides oodles of apocalyptic tension, action in space and monsters versus robots. With familiar elements to competing movies such as Transformers and Godzilla, del Toro has managed to set his direction apart from futile minutes of tedious fight scenes and building crushing with his focus on character development and narrative engagement.
By Bethan Sweeting