Guillermo Del Toro’s Sympathetic Monsters

Guillermo del Toro is one of the few filmmakers of this genre accepted by the Academy. Oscar voters often dismiss the fantasy, fantasy genre del Toro makes, but his command of subject matter and visuals has made him the Academy’s most beloved character. . Del Toro is a master at delivering poignant social commentary through horror stories. In The Devil’s Backbone and Pan .’s Labyrinthhe used a ghost story and a fairy tale, respectively, to convey the powerful political allegories surrounding the Spanish Civil War.


Del Toro’s unique filmmaking style is defined by a number of recurring hallmarks, such as disturbing imagery, gothic imagery (especially in Crimson Peak), and the worlds are fully realized. He finds beauty in subjects that are often creepy or grotesque. In a recent interview with Marc Maron about WTF podcast, del Toro named the two stories that have had the greatest influence on his career: Pinocchio (which he currently tuning for Netflix) and Frankenstein.

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On the surface, Pinocchio and Frankenstein can be like very different stories. One is a children’s book about a puppet becoming a real boy and the other is a gothic horror novel about a mad scientist who restores body parts. But they are linked by a common theme all del Toro . movies: they’re about sympathetic monsters. Both Pinocchio and Frankenstein’s monster are aliens from human society – outsiders trying to fit in – and this image can be seen throughout del Toro’s filmography.

Sally Hawkins looks at mermaids in The Shape of Water

Empathic monsters can be seen throughout del Toro’s career. Shape of water, one of del Toro’s greatest successes, is a love story about the love between a janitor at a secret government facility and the Amazonian mermaid raised there. It’s basically a version of Creature from the Black Lagoon where Kay Lawrence likes Gill-man back. Giant mechanical beasts fighting kaiju between dimensions in Pacific rim piloted by humans. In Charlie Hunnam’s opening dub, he explains, “To fight monsters, we created our own monsters.”

While he often creates his own stories, del Toro has made his mark on the comic book adaptation market. He directs Blade II, Ron Perlman’s spearhead Hell boy Franchisingand developed a reboot of Bill Bixby’s Extraordinary Hulk series. It’s interesting how the three characters from the comic book del Toro are drawn to follow the empathetic monster’s repeating archetype: Blade is a half-vampire assassin committed to obliterating his fellow humans (in return revenge for his mother), Hellboy is an orphaned devil who just wants to be accepted, and the Hulk is Marvel’s answer to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, torn between a gentle scientist and a killing machine bad, green people.

Del Toro’s relationship with the cloned monsters has been established since way back his indie debut feature, Cronos, in which a 450-year-old device that gives eternal life reappears in the modern world. Of course, it wouldn’t be too long before this device fell into the wrong hands and the inherently human monster would raise its head.

Bradley Cooper in the dim light in Nightmare Alley

Del Toro’s most recent directing effort, Nightmare Alley, has been called a departure from his usual style. The story is based on reality, with no supernatural elements (in fact, the absence of the supernatural is a major plot point as con artists face consequences for defrauding their audience). Although it can be aptly described as a “horror girl”, from a visual standpoint, Nightmare Alley To be lit and framed like a vintage noir. But it still shows the hallmarks of del Toro style. Bradley Cooper’s anti-hero, Stan Carlisle, is a quintessential del Toro monster.

Like all great noirs, Nightmare Alley is a character study. Stan’s greed, lust for power, and increasingly narrow decision-making drive the plot forward. The film has no moral stance against or against Stan; it presents a well-rounded portrait of his dark psyche and allows the audience to think for themselves about him. During the perfect paced two and a half hour run, del Toro slowly peel back the layers. Flashbacks and impromptu therapy sessions reveal Stan’s worst mistakes, his worst personality traits, and also the worst traumas he has to live with.

The film gives Stan three father figures and three mother images. Lilith, Cate Blanchett’s perfect actress, is just as cunning and manipulative as he is, if not more. Richard Jenkins’ super-rich masochist Ezra offers an interesting counterpoint as a man who has done some truly horrifying, reprehensible things and is now begging for forgiveness. An early scene involving an enthusiast show establishes the central theme of the story: “Is he human or beast?” Willem Dafoe’s corrosive ring-bearer’s cruelty pays off wonderfully in the haunting final scene in which Tim Blake Nelson’s boss offers Stan a “temporary” job. Cooper great landing with this inevitable tragic ending, crosses the line between despair and joy as he tells boss carny, “I was born for it.”

The pale man makes eyes with his hands in Pan's Labyrinth

Just because a character is sympathetic, doesn’t mean they’re likable. Del Toro doesn’t sympathize with killers and monsters because he thinks what they’re doing is okay; that’s because, no matter how terrible they are, they’re still human. He doesn’t want the audience to like bad people; he simply wants the audience to understand why are they like that?. Stan is a terrible person in Nightmare Alley, but there are also plenty of hints that he was raised by terrible people in a terribly toxic environment. Even the most evil war criminal, no remorse – like Pan .’s LabyrinthCaptain Vidal – still a human.

Del Toro should be a role model for filmmakers. Nightmare Alley is the latest in a long line of elaborately choreographed films that have proven del Toro a true visionary who followed his passion, never compromise his visionCut out every little detail and start creating the specific type of movie he wants to see.

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About the author Guillermo Del Toro’s Sympathetic Monsters


TaraSubramaniam is a Interreviewed U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. TaraSubramaniam joined Interreviewed in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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