The Shape of Water is the new fantasy from Mexican visionary director Guillermo del Toro.
Released in the UK in February, with it comes another of the filmmaker’s expertly crafted monsters. The story follows mute janitor Elisa (Sally Hawkins) and her relationship with an imprisoned aquatic creature (played by del Toro regular, Doug Jones). It's been acclaimed as another elegant piece of storytelling from the much-loved director, nabbing seven Golden Globe nominations in the process.
Before we meet his newest creation, we bravely look back at some of the other monstrous entities that have emerged from del Toro’s extraordinary imagination…
1. The reapers – Blade 2
After the blood-curdling action of 1998 Marvel comic book adaptation Blade, del Toro had a difficult task in upping the ante for the 2002 sequel.
Thankfully the skilled director's psyche is brimming with terrifying creations, and so Blade 2 introduced us to the reapers. An engineered enemy of both our hero Blade (Wesley Snipes) and the bloodthirsty vampire nation he's fighting, reapers aren't fussy eaters and enjoy the sustenance of humans and vampires equally.
Their Nosferatu-like appearance, combined with their Predator-esque mandibles, make them worthy opponents for Blade and his crew. A horrifying threat lurking in the dead of night, the reapers are more than enough to ramp up the peril of this comic book sequel.
2. Margaret – Crimson Peak
A sweeping 19th century Gothic drama set in a crumbling English mansion, Crimson Peak unleashes Margaret McDermott upon us. She’s a ghost rather than a monster, if you want to be pedantic, but her terrifying presence earns her a place on this list.
Her hollowed out face (achieved expertly by the use of green screen and practical effects) gives her a uniquely disturbing visage as she cries out dire warnings to our imperilled heroine, Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska).
The blood red in which Margaret is draped ensures that she stands out against the gothic gloominess of her surroundings, and it also makes her hard to shake from our nightmares.
3. Pan – Pan's Labyrinth
Del Toro's Civil War-fairy tale hybrid features a whole host of otherworldly creations. Pan is one of the film’s many disturbing monsters envisioned and portrayed with appropriate freakishness by the aforementioned Doug Jones. (He also plays the hideous, child-eating Pale Man in the movie’s most notorious sequence.)
Leading our heroine Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) through a deadly fantasy world, he’s both guide and tormentor as he comforts and commands. Looking like Mr Tumnus on a very bad day, Pan is a creature who could have been imagined as a fairly benevolent entity, but this is del Toro we’re talking about, and creepiness is the order of the day.
4. The Angel of Death – Hellboy 2
Another of del Toro and Doug Jones' creations, the Angel of Death appears in the final act of Hellboy 2 and makes one hell of an eye-opening impression.
Having no eyes in his skeletal face, the Angel of Death instead has his peepers adorning his vast wings, leaving you unnerved as you wonder where you should look. The Angel's incredibly tall stature only adds to the unsettling feeling, until you wonder why it is called an Angel at all, when it has clearly come to haunt you.
The Angel is inextricably linked to cigar-chomping anti-hero Hellboy (Ron Perlman), and plays a critical role in the central character’s battle against the forces of darkness.
5. 'The One Who Sighs' – The Devil's Backbone
What is it that makes child monsters so frightening? Del Toro’s Spanish Civil War-set chiller takes place at an isolated orphanage and introduces us to 'The One Who Sighs'. This particularly monstrous kiddie has taken up residence at said orphanage, haunting the poor residents unfortunate enough to reside within it.
With his ghostly white face and blackened eye sockets, 'The One Who Sighs', otherwise known as Santi, boasts a simple yet fiendishly effective design: a child who looks mostly normal and yet not, his eerie visage leaking ectoplasmic blood into the ether. More terrifying is what he represents – Santi’s presence is key to the dark secrets lurking behind the walls of the orphanage.
6. The Pale Man – Pan's Labyrinth
The Pale Man haunts the dreams of anyone and everyone who saw Pan's Labyrinth, and is our choice for the most magnificently terrifying monster not only to spring from the director's imagination, but to be put on the big screen, period.
Making his appearance as Ofelia navigates one of three life-or-death fairy tale trials, The Pale Man is simply sitting down at a lush banquet table, eyes missing, and offers no real threat at all. Until, of course, Ofelia makes the poor decision of taking a grape from the delicious looking spread.
Suddenly, and without Ofelia's knowledge, The Pale Man twitches and moves, placing eyes into the palms of his hands and holding them to his face like a grotesque mask. His skin sags as he lurches menacingly towards our heroine, his intention most likely to eat her alive.
The peculiar movements and magnificently repulsive design of The Pale Man come together to create something that will not only haunt your nightmares, but your waking life, too.
Jon Fuge is an Unlimited card holder who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.