Guillermo del Toro's new movie Nightmare Alley plunges audiences into a typically surreal and visually arresting world populated by all manner of carnival show eccentrics. Bradley Cooper pairs with the Pan's Labyrinth and The Shape of Water director for the first time, playing ambitious carnival huckster Stanton Carlisle. Tutored in the ways of the fairground freak show, Stanton starts his inexorable rise to the top, along the way tempted by sensuality and menace in the form of Molly (Rooney Mara) and devious psychiatrist Lillith (Cate Blanchett).
Co-starring Toni Collette, David Strathairn, Willem Dafoe and Richard Jenkins, Nightmare Alley is a remake of a Tyrone Power vehicle from the 1940s, and is loaded with Del Toro's signature twisted style. No one paints the grotesque as beautifully as Del Toro does, and here are eight striking shots from his past movies that prove it.
1. Cronos (1993)
The director's breakout movie is a quintessentially Mexican take upon the Dracula myth. It revolves around a bloodsucking creature contained within a clockwork invention, one that confers immortality upon the user. Such a shot embodies many of del Toro's favourite occupations – insects, the passage of time – and remains burned into the mind of whoever watches the movie.
2. Mimic (1997)
The making of this giant killer cockroach movie was troubled (del Toro's father was kidnapped during production – and he said even that proved less stressful than filming) but it's still drenched in exquisitely moody, subterranean atmosphere. The moment where the monsters' secret weapon is revealed – they have evolved to mimic humans – is a wonderful fusion of artful beauty and horror.
3. The Devil's Backbone (2001)
Del Toro returned to the Spanish language for this superbly chilling and emotional ghost story. Set in a remote boys boarding school during the Spanish Civil War it tells the story of undead child Santi and the deadly secret that's connected to the building. Yet the movie's signature image is that of an unexploded bomb in the courtyard – a reflection of the dread and terror hanging over all of the characters.
4. Hellboy (2004)
It's being rebooted by Neil Marshall with David Harbour in the title role, but you can't beat the twisted imagery and wry humour of del Toro's two Hellboy movies. Ron Perlman steals it as the cigar-chomping demon but it's the moonlit arrival of the movie's primary villain Kroenen, a kind of cyborg/Nazi fusion, that takes our breath away.
5. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)
Now, this was a tough one to choose. Del Toro's brutal, heartrending and operatic fairy tale/Civil War tale is overflowing with breathtaking imagery that crisscrosses the divide between the human realm and that of make-believe. Even so, it's the moment where young Ophelia ventures into the gilded lair of the hideous, child-eating Pale Man that puts brilliantly imaginative design in the service of something truly terrifying.
6. Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008)
It pretty much repeats all the riffs from the original Hellboy movie – with added Barry Manilow tuneage – but the gold-plated design of del Toro's sequel is hard to resist. Our favourite moment is where Perlman's wisecracking title character prepares to battle the titular Golden Army whilst standing upon clanking, mechanical clockwork – a quintessential del Toro image.
7. Pacific Rim (2013)
It's utterly ridiculous but few could deny the pleasure of watching oversized robots battling equally ginormous monsters (or 'kaiju', to use the official terminology). Del Toro's testosterone-powered blockbuster also has a wicked sense of humour, best shown in the awesome shot where a tanker is used as a battering ram. Bring it!
8. Crimson Peak (2015)
Style is laid upon style in del Toro's extravagant gothic romance. Set in a crumbling English mansion and with plenty of overwrought emotion between leads Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain, it's one of del Toro's most sumptuously stylised movies. Even so, it's the ragged, ever-changing nature of the film's ghost, oozing and pouring with wild abandon, that really captures the imagination.
9. The Shape of Water (2017)
Del Toro's Oscar-winning delight is a fairy tale romance that mixes brutality and sentiment in equal measure. A captivating Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, a mute 1960s cleaner who forms a bond with a humanoid fish man (Doug Jones) that's being held in the lab where she works. Clad in shimmering aquamarine hues, the movie is also openly meta about the intoxicating nature of cinema, as evidenced by the swooning, self-referential scene where Elisa imagines herself dancing with her aquatic paramour in the manner of a classic musical.
In the mood for more Del Toro madness? Click here to book your tickets for Nightmare Alley and tweet us @Cineworld with your favourite images from the director's movies.