Horror fans are some of the most dedicated audiences the world of cinema has ever known. Unlike any other genre categorisation, those who profess their love of the paranormal, blood, gore, terror and villains are as steadfast and diligent in their adoration and, usually, have a near-encyclopaedic knowledge of the subject matter. One of the genre’s premier directors, Guillermo del Toro, has a similar breadth of understanding, meaning when he picks out a favourite horror movie, it’s best to pay attention.
For director Guillermo del Toro, movies aren’t a part of life; they are life. After discovering cinema as a child, del Toro promptly abandoned his original ambition of being a marine biologist vis-à-vis Jacques Costeau and stepped into an elaborate fantasy world informed by an entire century of cinematic innovation. His sinister vision reached maturity in the early 1990s with his directorial debut Cronos. After the success of his science-fiction follow up, Mimic in 1997, del Toro hit on a winning streak, releasing The Devil’s Backbone in 2001, Hell Boy in 2004 and his revered anti-fascist fairy tale, Pan’s Labyrinth, in 2006.
Speaking to Hollywood actor Alec Baldwin in 2019, del Toro said: “Everything I’ve done, even the most commercially viable ones, they have some weirdness in them. When you’re on a set, and you’ve absorbed 100 years of cinema, your first instinct, the regular instinct, is the wrong instinct. You have to say, ‘OK, that is the way it would normally happen in a movie. What can we do that is different?’ And you stop yourself. You have to stop yourself. The older you get, the more you want to go different.”
Del Toro has found inspiration in countless pictures, including the 1980 ghost story classic The Changeling. Made in Canada with legendary filmmaker Peter Medak at the helm, the film is now regarded as a piece of cinematic gold. Starring George C. Scott as a grief-stricken composer who moves into a haunted mansion, the picture is apparently based on a true story; the haunting of Russell Hunter. The Pan’s Labirynth director professed his love for the film when meeting the director at the 2018 BAFTAs.
“I was in London at the BAFTA Awards and Guillermo was screaming, ‘You’re my mentor! You’re my mentor!'” Medak told The Lineup. “I said, ‘What are you talking about?’ He said, ‘Your movie The Changeling is just a masterpiece.'” It’s the kind of appreciation you’d expect from a regular cinemagoer; however, it was clearly special to hear it from del Toro. “It’s just nice to hear that from fellow directors whose work I love and respect,” Medak said.
“I wanted to make it very psychological, so it didn’t have any cheap shocks in it,” Medak told Entertainment Weekly of the film’s unique positioning within the horror genre. “That was very important to me.” Make sure you add the 1980s film Guillermo del Toro called a “masterpiece”, The Changeling, to your essential watch list.