Guillermo del Toro knows horror.  He knows what frightens us and he uses that to his film-making advantage.

I can’t even watch a trailer for his movie without running from my computer, screaming in terror.

Remember Pan’s Labyrinth?  A child, a fantasy world, and fascist Spain?  I couldn’t watch it.  The Devil’s Backbone, again a child and a fantasy world set during the Spanish Civil War?  Couldn’t watch it either.

Guillermo del Toro is from Mexico.  He’s a director, screenwriter, producer and novelist.  He directed and wrote the first Hellboy movie (with Ron Perlman as Hellboy), and was a producer for the second and third installments.

Fortunately I have a resident horror expert, my son.  I keep him on staff for just such occasions.  I discussed Guillermo del Toro’s new movie, Mama, with him.  My expert had actually shown me a short film, Mama, made in Spanish with subtitles, sometime in the past year which had me so frightened I refused to touch my computer for three days.

Oh god, I think I’m gonna pass out just uploading that sucker! Jesus!

From my resident expert:

“There is actually a hypothesis which discusses why we react the way we do to the kind of horror movie Guillermo del Toro makes. It’s called The Uncanny Valley. It’s a theory of robotics and it hypothesizes that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like human beings, it causes human observers to experience revulsion. It was originally discussed by Ernst Jentsch, a German psychiatrist, who wrote an essay in 1906 entitled, On the Psychology of the Uncanny. Sigmund Freud elaborated on this in 1919, when he wrote his own essay on the same subject, The Uncanny. Robotics professor, Masahiro Mori, (think Japanese horror films), coined the phrase, The Uncanny Valley.

“Horror comes from the grotesque, from showing something familiar acting in an unfamiliar way. We are hard-wired to expect humans to act in human ways. When a human moves like an animal, or an insect, something that is inhuman, it plays with our sensibilities and becomes frightening. Guillermo del Toro is a master at showing us a human being acting in an inhuman way.

“He also tends to center his films around children. First of all, let’s be honest, children in horror movies are creepy. However, by placing a child at the center of the abnormal activity, he’s giving adults permission to participate along with the child, because in childhood the impossible is possible. In childhood, there is no impossible.”

And then my resident horror expert showed me this:

Holy fuckin’ shit. I have to run and scream now. Later.

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16 Responses to Horror.

  1. No. I don’t do horror. Love my SF, but have never watched ‘Alien’. I don’t like being scared. But it’s interesting reading how they construct horror. I read Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematery’ and that was QUITE enough. It includes kids doing nasty things. (It’s the only book of King’s I’ve read – or ever will read)

  2. Tim Dittmer says:

    Cue up Kurtz. “The horror…” ;-)

  3. I can’t read Stephen King, Greta, but I do love Aliens. Not so much Alien. Sci fi is one thing. Horror is a whole other dimension. A scary dimension.

  4. Dang right, the horror! Thanks, Tim.

  5. Amber Skyze says:

    I used to live for this stuff. I’ve loved being scared stupid. Now I’m a big wuss. lol

  6. I find real life scary enough. I’m a big scaredy cat. I want my fiction to be happy or at least not terrifying. Strangely enough, I do read some Stephen King. I love The Langoliers and am reading The Dome right now.

  7. I’m more afraid of the nightmarish world of horror, Stephanie. And I think The Uncanny Valley hypothesis explains why. This is why I’ve never liked dolls, puppets, Muppets, ventriloquist dummies…
    If I hear a noise in the night I assume it’s a monster of some sort. :P

  8. I cannot watch it, Amber. I’d rather ride an upside down roller coaster. And those make me puke!

  9. Tom Stronach says:

    not a big fan of his but MAMA does look kinda interesting

    remember to put your hand round the corner first to turn the lights on before entering a darkened room…. mind you the problem with doing that is …………

  10. Tom, we once rented a house that turned out to be haunted by something very evil. We actually had issues with light switches. Had to reach in and turn them on first, but ‘he’d’ turn them off- flip the switches down after you entered the room. That particular haunted house terrified us all. The spirit was quite nasty. We lived there for a year, because that was the term of our lease and hubby insisted upon living up to the term of our lease. Damn him! Literally the year from hell – I swear there was some doorway to hell in that house! I was afraid the spirit would follow us when we finally moved.

  11. Tom Stronach says:

    bless, and there I go and dredge it up again, sorry my sweet LURVS AND HUGS #badoscar but a lease is a lease :-(

  12. I have a few posts scheduled already but then I’ll begin another serial about that particular haunted house. Devil house, Tom.

  13. I’ve never thought of Pan’s Labyrinth as horror. Weird, tragic, dark…yes. But I didn’t find it scary. In some ways, it was beautiful (visually, anyway). Mama looks scary.

    As for the Uncanny Valley thing…why do movies that play on this scare some people but not others? What does it say about those viewers?

  14. Oh Marie, Pan’s Labyrinth terrified me. Things that go bump in my imagination! Hmmmmm – well, the Uncanny Valley thing scares me to death. If it doesn’t scare you I’m wondering if you’re from someplace else? Another dimension perhaps? ;)

  15. Oh my! You have to give Pan’s Labyrinth another chance, Julia. It’s not that scary. On the contrary, I think it’s very mythical. I could almost say a darker (Jim Henson’s) Labyrinth but that wouldn’t be quite right. (The worst thing about it is the girl’s darned sadistic stepfather and the *stuff* he does!) But the world the girl discovers is…awesome. I love that movie. Watch it in the morning if you have to but do give it another chance.

  16. I tried, Juli. My son loves the movie. It scared me to death.