During NY Comic Con, del Toro reminded Latino fanboys and girls that monster stories are metaphors for our culture and identity. As a Mexican, the director explained how masked superhero wrestlers like Santo and Blue Demon, also known as "El Demonio Azul," introduced him to a world of monsters, zombies, vampires, and mad doctors. Their adventures inspired del Toro to explore other supernatural stories, and in Mexican magazines like Tradiciones y Leyendas de la Colonia, he discovered how much larger, sometimes unexplainable, realities are hidden behind the things that we hold to be true.
"[The magazine] described the true legends of the [former] Spanish colony," del Toro said. "Many of the stories focused on taboo themes like incest. They also described the Inquisition's merciless torture and murder, the darkest side of humanity." Del Toro found this dark side irresistible. And the deeper he looked into these distorted characters, the more beautiful they appeared to him. Ultimately, he would set out to capture their conflicting existence in films like Cronos, The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth, and Hellboy, among others.
Del Toro's next supernatural thriller, Mama, due January 18, 2013, tells the haunting tale of two little girls who disappeared into the woods the day that their parents were killed. When they are rescued years later and begin a new life, they find that someone or something still wants to come tuck them in at night. The movie stars Jessica Chastain and Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
Every monster, every horror story that del Toro read as a boy, is like a reference point on a map that outlines his diverse cultural influences. So with Halloween and El Dia de los Muertos approaching, we asked him to list five monsters that have shaped his filmmaking and identity.
But beware, for the list – presented in no particular order - may inspire you to explore your own dark side…
Considered by del Toro to be the "patron saint of the freaks," the Wretch from Mary Shelley's classic novel (and the central figure in the 1931 James Whale film) personifies our deepest yearning for companionship and acceptance. He is both a metaphor for the powers of science and nature – assembled from old body parts, strange chemicals, and brought to life by a "mysterious spark." At eight feet tall, he towers above ordinary men and women like a giant, but has the mindset and sensibility of a baby. His physical grotesqueness and soft, compassionate demeanor make him universally appealing to anyone who has ever felt alienated or alone.
The Loch Ness Monster
This mythical aquatic creature, thought to have originated in Scotland, is the perfect metaphor for any hidden truth or dark secret that is dormant in our unconscious. It compels us to look deep into the gray waters of the Loch Ness, penetrate beneath our reflection on the surface, and discover what lurks inside. This monster can personify the ugliest distortions of our imagination, and our untamed appetites. But it can also remind us of the awesome power of nature.
Ridley Scott's Alien