Tag Archives: Guillermo del Toro

CAPSULE: TRAILERS FROM HELL!, VOL. 2 (2011) (WITH THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS)

DIRECTED BY: None credited

FEATURING: Roger Corman, Joe Dante, , Ernest Dickerson, Mick Garris, Jack Hill, Larry Karaszewski, Lloyd Kaufman, Mary Lambert, John Landis, Josh Olson, Michael Peyser, Brian Trenchard Smith

PLOT: Industry professionals deliver commentaries on twenty movies as their trailers play.

Still from Trailers from Hell Vol. 2 (2011)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: In itself it’s not weird, though it features some occasionally weird directors discussing some occasionally weird films.

COMMENTS: Schlock movie fans who came of age in the pre-YouTube era of the 80s and early 90s remember the VHS phenomenon of the “trailer tape”: feature-length compilations of “coming attractions” that showcased just the “good parts” of some bad movies.  With titles like Terror on Tape and The Best of Sex and Violence, these tapes always covered B-movies (I never saw a compilation tape dedicated to tear-jerking British coming-of-age-dramas, but there were plenty packed with grindhouse-era sexy shockers); they often featured footage from obscure, otherwise unavailable titles.  They were a nice way to spend an evening when you couldn’t find something that caught your fancy at your local VHS venue, and, if you were like me, you’d jot down “must-see” titles from the most bizarre and salacious trailers (which almost always turned out to be letdowns when you saw the real thing).  Director Joe Dante (Gremlins, Amazon Women on the Moon) remembered trailer tapes, too, and decided to resurrect the dormant phenomenon with a 21st century twist: he added DVD-style commentary on the films from an array of his knowledgeable Hollywood buddies.  Launched as a website in 2007, the Trailers from Hell project has now annotated hundreds of films, mostly B-movies, but with a sprinkling of classics like Casablanca and even the occasional weird art film like Valerie and Her Week of Wonders.  The free trailers on the website are representative of what’s available on Vol. 2—although these selections are exclusive, there’s nothing especially premium about the ones chosen to be burned to disc.  Each pundit provides basic background on his or her movie, some trivia, some opinion, and a lot of enthusiasm: John Landis cracks himself up remembering how he responded with awe to the British Godzilla ripoff Gorgo as a kid.  If you don’t like it when loudmouths yammer over the coming attractions, you can turn the commentary off for a true circa 1989 trailer tape experience.  Films covered include several Hammer films, creature features, and the occasional overlooked mainstream film or blockbuster hit like Jaws.  The trailer of most interest to weird movie fans will be ‘s reverent analysis of Dario Argento’s Deep Red (“a very strange movie made by a very strange, and thin, man… doesn’t make logical sense, but makes lyrical sense.)”  Other commentaries you may want to check out are writer Larry (Ed Wood) Karaszewski’s take on Polanski‘s The Tenant, Lloyd Kaufman discussing his own Terror Firmer in his typical carnival barker style (he provides the collection’s only trailer with graphic violence and nudity), and Mick Garris on Flesh Gordon, the only-in-the-70s porn parody mixing silly sex with some remarkable Ray Harryhausen-inspired stop-motion effects (leading Garris to the odd observation, “the great god Porno and the penisaurus really [stand] out”).  Trailers from Hell defies recommendation: you’re either a B-film geek who finds this stuff fascinating, or you have no idea why anyone would actually spend money and waste an hour watching experts discussing ads.

Many people will find the “extra” feature more intriguing than the main feature.  It’s a remastered version of Roger Corman’s cult classic man-eating plant horror comedy The Little Shop of Horrors, presented (for the first time on DVD) in its original widescreen format.  It’s unclear just why Little Shop has never been released in anamorphic widescreen before—it seems whoever had access to the original prints would have thought of putting it out a long time ago to stand out from the glut of full frame public domain copies made from old TV prints.  I guess a widescreen Little Shop wasn’t considered economically feasible as a standalone release, but as an extra, it’s horribly cool.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“…these movie-mad merry pranksters make a bunch of mostly forgotten sci-fi and horror curios sound a whole lot better than they really are.”-Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly (DVD)

DISCLAIMER: A DVD copy of this film was provided by the production company for review.

40. PAN’S LABYRINTH [EL LABERINTO DEL FAUNO] (2006)

“I’m more interested in truth than in reality.”—Guillermo del Toro, Time Out interview

Must See

DIRECTED BY:  Guillermo del Toro

FEATURING: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Álex Angulo

PLOT:  While blood trickles backwards from the ground into a prone girl’s nostril, a voiceover tells of a princess of the Underworld who escaped to the mortal realm and forgot her divinity. We then meet Ofelia, an eleven-year old girl who is traveling with her pregnant mother to stay with her new stepfather, a brutal Captain in the employ of the dictator Franco, who is hunting the Communist/Republican resistance hiding in the forest around a Spanish mill. With her mother’s difficult pregnancy and the cruel Captain’s indifference to her needs, Ofelia’s life becomes intolerable, until she is visited by a faun who promises to restore her to her rightful place as an immortal fairy princess if she can complete three tasks.

Still from Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

<BACKGROUND:

  • Despite the English language title, the faun in the movie is not the Greek nature god Pan.
  • Pan’s Labyrinth is intended as a “companion piece” to del Toro’s 2001 ghost story The Devil’s Backbone, which also features the experiences of an imaginative child during the Spanish Civil War.
  • Del Toro has tended to alternate making artistic, genre-tinged, Spanish language movies with smarter-than-usual big budget Hollywood fantasy projects. He followed the innovative Mexican vampire movie Cronos (1993) with Mimic (1997), and the psychological ghost story The Devil’s Backbone [El Espinazo del Diablo] (2001) with Blade II (2002) and Hellboy (2004), before returning to his Latin roots in 2006 with El Laberinto del Fauno. Since then he has made Hellboy II: The Golden Army and is slated to direct the upcoming live-action version of The Hobbit. If he holds true to form, we can expect another daring Spanish language film to follow his Tolkien adaptation.
  • Pan’s Labyrinth was in competition for the Golden Palm at Cannes, but the fantasy lost to Ken Loach’s Irish troubles drama The Wind That Shakes the Barley. It was also nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards, but lost to the German Communist-era drama The Lives of Others.
  • Despite not winning any major awards, eight top critics—including Roger Ebert, Richard Corliss and Mark Kermode—selected El Laberinto del Fauno as the best film of 2006. With a 98% positive ranking, Metacrtitic considers it the second best reviewed film of 2006 (trailing only Army of Shadows, a lost 1969 Italian classic re-released in the United States in 2006).
  • Perhaps the most gratifying praise the movie received was a reported 22 minutes of applause from the Cannes audience.

INDELIBLE IMAGE:  The Pale Man, murderer of children, who sits eternally in front of an uneaten banquet with his eyeballs lying on a golden plate in front of him.

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRDPan’s Labyrinth is the textbook example of our rule that the better a movie is, the less weird it has to be to make the List of the 366 Best Weird Movies of all time. On one level, by blending a realistic wartime drama with a fairy tale that could almost be viewed as a conventional fantasy, the movie could be seen as merely novel, rather than weird. The way that Ofelia’s “fantasy” terrors bleed into and ominously echo the real world horrors of Franco’s Spain creates a sort of a weird resonance even when we are lodged in the “real” plot. The film is also suffused with weirdness’ close cousin, ambiguity, in that it never proves the realm of fairies and fauns to be a phantasmagoria; the evidence is deliberately conflicting on whether these wonders are all in Ofelia’s  head or not. The film is filled with masterful, memorable, visionary images, such as the moving mandrake root that resembles a woody baby and the giant toad that coughs out its own innards, though such marvels might be glimpsed briefly in a regulation fantasy films. Those elements are enough to nudge Pan’s Labyrinth from a mainstream fantasy in the direction of the surreal, but it’s the nightmare centerpiece with the Pale Man that tips Pan‘s scales into the weird.


Original (and somewhat misleading) trailer for Pan’s Labyrinth

COMMENTS:  You can have brilliant cinematography, masterful acting, awe-inspiring Continue reading 40. PAN’S LABYRINTH [EL LABERINTO DEL FAUNO] (2006)