Guillermo Del Toro: the monsters, ghosts,

Happy (almost) Halloween!

It’s not October unless Guillermo Del Toro is somehow involved. And even though “The Book of Life,” his new animated picture, is a beautiful, family-friendly adventure, horror is a subject that’s ever-present in the filmmaker’s life, no matter the season.

Variety Latino spoke to GDT recently about the success of his FX series “The Strain,” and in the spirit of Halloween, we also took the opportunity to ask him about the creatures who shaped him.

Boris Karloff in “Frankenstein” (1931). 


If you’re a GDT fan then you already know that the #1 creature in his life — without question — is the Frankenstein monster. This is something we have in common, since the Mary Shelley novel is one of my favorite books of all time.

More on the Wretch from Del Toro himself…

A movie like Universal’s “Frankenstein” showed me that a creature like the one Boris Karloff played could have a rich emotional life. He was simultaneously terrifying, fragile and vulnerable. I feel like I understand him so well and he’s someone with whom I really identify.

That story — as well as the [early 1970s] series “Night Gallery” from Rod Serling — spoke to me, to my core, and through it I was able to understand our ability to communicate through art. I realized I loved the humanity and poetic side of horror as a genre.

If I could have a real-life encounter with the Frankenstein monster, more so than having a conversation with him, I would offer him comfort; I would offer him a shelter. It’s a character that I truly, truly love.

I would love to do a Frankenstein movie. It would be an honor but it is also something I want to do when I have the time to dedicate myself only to that, and right now I am up to my ears in projects.

But I hope to one day do it.


Kate Del Castillo voices the Death character in The Book of Life (2014).


Currently in theaters, “The Book of Life,” produced by Del Toro and directed by Jorge Gutierrez, is inspired by the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead. Says Del Toro: “it’s a movie that celebrates our bonds in a really special way. It celebrates family, friendship and love and it makes us feel like we are part of a bigger story in this journey called life. It also stays very true to that Mexican aesthetic. It’s a beautiful experience for the whole family, from children to grandparents.”

But the filmmaker’s own experience with the ghost of a relative was the total opposite of that …

I’ve had a personal encounter with ghosts two times in my life. The first one, I was a kid and I saw the breath of my uncle who had passed away. I was around 10 or 11 years old. I was scared out of my mind.

The second time I was an adult. It was in a hotel in New Zealand that had a reputation for ghosts. The hotel was almost completely empty and I heard terrifying screams in the middle of the night.

Let me just say that I am terrified of ghosts.

Vampires, I know they’re not real, just like I know that werewolves don’t exist. I know that there are no giant monsters, but ghosts? I know that they’re real. Maybe in a few decades we will find a way to explain ghosts in a scientific way. It doesn’t have to be a religious or spiritual experience; it could be a simple chemical composition thing, something to do with the physics of sound and images, who knows. There is probably an explanation for it beyond religion, but I know for sure that I have experienced ghosts twice in my life.


Del Toro behind the scenes of his FX series, “The Strain” (2014).


If you feel slightly nauseous while watching Del Toro’s “The Strain,” then he’s succeeded. In his own words: “it should gross you out the same way having a worm in your arm or leg should.”

Really the only vampire we’ve had in the last 10 years is the sexy vampire, the romantic one, and I’m not interested in that. In “Cronos” and “Blade 2” I explored the vampire as a monstrous and non-romantic figure. In “Cronos” it was a sad, pathetic being. In “Blade 2,” like in “The Strain,” it’s a monstrous, parasitic figure. You should feel repulsed but at the same time attracted to the mysterious side of these creatures. And as the series progresses that fascination grows in the biological, historical and ecological sense. The series has a lot to offer in terms of creating a new kind of vampire figure.

A few years ago there was a beautiful [Swedish] film called “Let The Right One In.” It’s a really interesting story about vampires. And that’s what I love about the genre; there are constantly surprises.

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