Interview: Guillermo del Toro on The Shape of Water - Dread Central
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Interview: Guillermo del Toro on The Shape of Water



Mexican-born auteur and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s move to Hollywood in the 1990s earned him swift accolades in 2000 as one of Time magazine’s 50 Young Leaders for the New Millennium… and this was before he made his third film. Countless creations since – movies, television series, novels, art and museum exhibits – del Toro has earned a well-deserved top spot as a legend in the genres of horror, dark fantasy, superheroes and science fiction.

With his new movie, The Shape of Water (review), del Toro adds a splash of romance, and thus has made, he told me at the recent event, his “favorite film.

The film follows Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman who works as a janitor in a hidden, high-security government laboratory. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret: a mysterious, amphibious creature (Doug Jones) imprisoned in an ironclad water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend – and more – she learns that his fate and survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent (Michael Shannon). She vows to rescue him, and so the adventure and romance begins!

Mild spoilers ahead…

Dread Central: There’s a scene involving a cat and the creature, that had everyone gasping at our press screening. Was that your homage to Frankenstein with the little girl in the original Universal classic, or was there some other inspiration behind that? What did you want people to take away from it?
Guillermo del Toro: From the beginning I wanted this to be a different type of Beauty and the Beast tale, in which the beauty is not a pretty princess in a pedestal, that she has “flaws” and that she is not the traditional Hollywood movie commercial beauty pretending to be a janitor, but somebody that you can find anywhere, and that she has a life, a sexual life, a private life and complexities. The beast doesn’t have to transform into a prince to be loved because the whole point of the movie is that love is not transformation but understanding.

And you come to the scene in which the creature has a divine element to him but it also has an animal element to him, he needs to eat, and when fighting with a predator, no matter what size the predator is, the creature is going to bite. The creature bites off two fingers of Michael Shannon’s character and it readily takes the cat as nourishment because he hasn’t eaten in a while. Therefore, the beast remains a beast, but you can learn to see that it also has a divine spirit in it.

DC: Did you write the script first, or did you write it based on your cast?
GdT: I always wrote it for them. In 2011 I heard the seminal idea that unlocked the movie for me. It came from Daniel Kraus when he said, “A janitor meets an amphibian man in a government facility and takes it home.” I thought that’s the way to unlock this story I want to do. I want this elemental river god and a woman going through the service door, and I thought who can do it. And I immediately went to Sally. I started writing the screenplay in 2012 and I had my agent call her agent and say, “Guillermo is writing this story for you.” And I found out who Michael Shannon’s agent was and I also said the same thing.

Then as the movie progressed to 2013/2014 and so on I started writing specifically for Octavia and specifically for Doug, because I met with Doug in 2014 and I said, “Look, I’m writing this movie and I want you to be the main male character, the protagonist, the star.” He’s never done that of course. I said, “You are truly a beautiful, god-like elemental creature.” He couldn’t believe it, but I knew that he is a terrific actor and that he could pull it off and he could hold his own with Sally Hawkins.

Sally is, I believe, this is my opinion, I’m biased, the most beautiful, luminous presence in cinema today, somebody that can combine the extraordinary, the poetic, the sublime and the ordinary and the quotidian. You can see her on the street waiting for the bus or you can see her illuminating the screen with a radiant, completely genuine emotion.

DC: Tell us about how the creature evolved, and what you were hoping to achieve with his look in terms of audience reaction.
GdT: The first decision was that we’re going to make a physical suit and a physical make-up because before the audience react I needed the actors to react. We took three years, two of design and one of execution, to bring this creature to life; first, alone with a few sculptors and then with Legacy Effects and Mike Hill doing the final design and the final touches, all the way to confection and application in the set.

The way I wanted audiences to react was to have a changing point of view of the character. When the movie starts it starts with a shock, with a hand hitting the glass. It’s a monster moment. Then you see the creature in silhouette bleeding and approaching the glass and haven’t got a sense of is this creature good, bad, what. Then the creature emerges from the water and blinks. It’s gorgeous. It’s a beautiful, beautiful shot. A perfect combination of digital enhancement and physical suit.

I think that’s the moment that the audience kind of falls for the empathy of the creature. Then the creature comes out and growls at Sally, and we feel, okay, it can go both ways. Then the next scene the creature is signing back to Sally, so you understand it’s intelligent and that’s where the communication starts.

It’s an ever-changing perception. My hope is at the end of the movie you have completely forgotten that this is a creature, you have completely loved him as a character and you want him to fare well; you can completely buy that he’s a divine god, an elemental god of the Amazon and that he has that power and that majesty and that he has enormous beauty and grace. That is an ever-changing perception.

DC: Colonel Strickland is one of the more striking characters throughout the film, because we learn quite a bit about his personal home life, his pressures at work. Why was it so important to you that the audience identify with the traditional villain character of the film?
GdT: The idea of the movie is that we need to look at the “other” and not fear the “other” and that is embodied by the creature. But I cannot help but think that if we apply that rule to the creature and the protagonist, you have to apply that rule to the antagonist. So, I wanted to at least give the audience the opportunity to understand what makes him tick, what makes him have his resentment, or what makes him feel pressure, and why his goals need to be achieved in a position to the goals of the protagonist.

Each of the characters actually has a little story outside. We get to see the life of Zelda at home. We get to see the life of Giles outside of the apartment. We get to see the life of the secret Russian agent at his home. It’s a movie that makes it a point to “follow” each of the characters home so that we can get a little glimpse of their lives. Every character that would be “the other” in the narrative becomes somebody we can at least experience and try to understand, because to understand is to nullify fear. This is a movie that says we should not fear the other but embrace the other.

DC: The visual style is really striking… did you take some cues from Old Hollywood?
GdT: Yes. The idea for that is I wanted to evoke actually classical cinema from the ’40s and the ’50s, even early ’60s, if we could; Douglas Sirk, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Stanley Donen, William Wyler, I tried to evoke that and the opulent nature of the color and the cinematography and the design. The camera moves were very classic. I was shooting the movie like a musical, with the camera always rolling and traveling and craning. At the same time this was done because the content of the movie, the twists and turns and the ideas behind it, were so completely unique.

The form are those two things. One is it celebrates classical cinema because the movie is a love poem about love and a love poem about cinema. I felt this could be clear in a formal way through the look of the movie that was not just a look but part of the content, and it evoked those melodramas of Douglas Sirk or the musical crane shots of Stanley Donen, and so forth.

People think about these departments as separate, but it’s a single department; cinematography, directing, wardrobe, hair, make-up and costume are a single department. You need to coordinate them all to give a movie a look that is not just beautiful but is substantial and part of the storytelling.

DC: What is it about the war-time backdrop, and superheroes, that keeps you coming back to explore it?
GdT: I think that the best juxtaposition of the fantastic is to juxtapose it with the real; the extraordinary with the ordinary. An elemental god from a river, but you can take him to a bathtub, that’s juxtaposing the ordinary and the extraordinary. Nineteen sixty-two is the last year of the fairytale idea of America: Kennedy in the White House, Camelot, the space race, post war suburban wealth, a car in every garage and so forth, and at the same time it’s a time of great division and of Cold War.

America will change the year after Kennedy is shot and the war is culminating in Vietnam and it’s almost the inset of the skepticism. It’s a perfect place to set a once upon a time fairytale because underneath all this harmony here is the great division, racial prejudice, gender discrimination, all the problems that we have alive today were alive back then. I wanted to make a movie about today but without making it a contrast that de-merited the fantasy. I needed to go to a time that was magical to some, at least visually, and then show also the ever-present ugliness underneath that, and it was very useful for that.

The film is directed by Guillermo del Toro, written by Vanessa Taylor & del Toro, and stars Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stulbarg, and Doug Jones.

The Shape of Water hits theaters nationwide on December 8th.

In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment.

The Shape of Water


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Last Meeple Standing

Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination – Last Meeple Standing Game Overview and Review



I’m going to kill you. Well, actually, me and few friends are going to snuff you. We are going to use… ummmmm… a bunch of old socks, a bucket of lighter fluid, and a piece of quartz to do it. Believe it. This is all because a machine that took a drop of your blood told you your cause of death would be “Blaze,” whatever that means. As assassins, it is our job to see you shuffle off your mortal coil in that manner (somehow, no matter how vague) using only a random assortment of items to force that death upon you. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. And we LIKE our job. It makes us laugh, you see.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

In the world of Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination (MoD for short), a device has been invented that uses as single drop of your blood it takes when you stick your hand in it to predict, in VERY vague terms, how you are going to die. The catch lies in that vagueness. When the machine spits out the card with your cause of death, it is going to be one or two words that may or may not make any sense to you. For example, the card that pops out of the machine might say “Elephant.” How the hell is an elephant going to kill you if you live in Modesto? Just avoid circuses and trips to Jakarta, right? Wrong. What about that billboard for Elephant brand tires that falls off a four-story building and squishes you into strawberry jam?

MoD puts players in the role of killers whose job it is to make sure the Machine of Death pays off in…well…death. The problem, and the fun, of the challenge is that you HAVE to use a randomly drawn assortment of items to send your victim on to the next life. If MoD didn’t have such a dark theme, I’d call it a party game. Wait…fuck it. It IS a party game. Who am I kidding? It is hysterically funny to try, within a limited amount of time, to bring about the timely end of your target.




Shall I start drooling all over this game right away? Yes! Commence drooling. The hefty, glossy game box comes packed with goodies: a huge pack of Death Cards, the cards that pop out of the MoD; a big box of Black Market Gift Cards, the items used to kill the victims with; a pack of Specialist Cards, bonus cards you can be awarded with to aid in our murderous adventures; a book of Target Intel Sheets, slips where you list various important traits for your victim; a wooden Fate Coin, which is flipped at various points in the game to help with decisions; a Mission booklet; and a nifty, red, custom die with a skull symbol for the “1.” All of this schwag is top-notch, high-quality stuff. The art on the cards is whimsical and very functional. The Death Cards look like those cards that used to pop out of the Fortune-Telling Gypsy booths on the boardwalk when you put a quarter in. The Black Market Gift Cards are designed to look like credit cards on one side with cute iconography identifying the item in question. The Specialist Cards have really fun artwork depicting the helpers you are awarded with if you kill particularly well. Lastly, anyone who frequents this column knows I’m totally nutty for custom dice, and this game scores with theirs. An embossed skull? Yes, please!




Separate out and shuffle the Death, Black Market Gift, and Specialist Card decks, and place each deck nearby face down. Draw one Death Card face down to the table. Count out 20 of the Black Market Gift Cards face down as your “shopping budget” for the game and put the rest away. Create your victim on an Intel slip using the tables in the rule book or select one from the Mission booklet. This will give the players some important and helpful insight into the target, allowing them to manipulate both their tools and the target for the kill. Turn over the Death Card and draw three Black Market Gift Cards face up in a row. Put the sand timer nearby, and you are ready to annihilate the victim.




It is important to remember that the game is more about fun storytelling than beating the dice. The more the players work together to come up with good stories, the better the gameplay is going to be. If you lose, so what? The game sets up in moments and is ready to go again, with fresh people just lining up to visit with Death.

Each game lasts for four rounds (four assassination targets). Each round you will do the following in order:

  1. Generate a target.
  2. Make an assassination plan.
  3. Attempt the kill.

If you fail at any kill, you lose. Too bad, so sad. If the kill is successful, you stand a chance to earn bonus Specialist Cards before moving on to the next assassination.

To generate a target, you use a series of simple tables and basically answer questions Mad Libs style to come up with Name, two pieces of intel (such as likes, dislikes, fears, beliefs, etc.), and a location for them. This meta-game is sorta fun all by itself. Making up goofy characters to slaughter shortly thereafter is a good time, right?

Next, the players look at the gift cards that have been turned up and try to come up with a way to use them to bring about the demise of the target. Keep in mind that these gifts are not going to be simple, single words, like: chainsaw, acid, or rifle. More than likely, they will be something like “something red.” In this case you could say, for example, it is a pile of bricks, a red dump truck, or a red baseball bat. String together a story of sorts from all of the items you have to form the death plan. If you had the cards music, something red, and batteries, you could come up with: “We’re going to block him into an alley with a red dump truck, confuse him with loud Skinny Puppy music so he doesn’t try to escape, and then pour battery acid on him from above.” All is good and well, but now you have to, as a team, try to assign a difficulty, from 2 (easy) to 6 (hella hard), for each of the three parts. How hard is it to accomplish each part? You might say that backing the truck block the alley is easy, so a 2, but getting enough battery acid together to kill the person might be hard, so maybe a 5.



To attempt the kill, you turn over the sand timer and get started as quickly as possible, because once the timer runs out, it’s game over, man! Starting with the first item in your plan, select a player to roll the die, in an attempt to roll the decided-upon difficulty level or greater. If you succeed, move on to the next item! If you fail, discard that item card, draw another, and revise you plan using the remaining items. The remaining items can operate the same way they did before, or you can create new uses and new difficulty levels for them. Then start over, attempting to succeed with all three items in your plan. If you roll greater than the difficulty level you set for all three items, your assassination is carried off for that victim. If you still have time on the clock, roll the die and consult the Aftermath table, which will let you attempt to flee the scene, establish an alibi, cater the target’s wake (really), etc. by drawing one item card and attempting a plan against that item. Win and you get to roll again, draw again, and try again if there is still time on the timer. For each successful roll, you get to draw a Specialist card and set it aside for the moment. These cards allow you to switch them out for item cards on subsequent assassination attempts, basically giving you more options of a unique and interesting kind (e.g., “water into wine,” “killer solo,” or “flying saucer ride”).


You win by successfully killing all four targets. Good job. You’re a serial killer. You lose if at any time you run out of both Gift Cards and Specialists before all four targets are dead. You also lose if you fail to kill a target before the timer runs out. What? You think you get a lifetime to snuff anyone you want? Guess again, killer!




By now, my enthusiasm for this game should be self-evident. I fricking LOVE MoD! The components are great, but the gameplay is even better! You’ve got a winner already, but I’ve been holding some info back from you, readers. This game is based on two awesome books of short stories delving into the possibilities of the wicked machine: Machine of Death and This Is How You Die. Both of them are chock full of hysterical…and creepy…stories of the fates of folks who fall victim to the machine. Not only that, but the website dedicated to this game,, is packed with bonus goodies for players: an Intel randomizer, timer music albums you can use in place of the sand timer (fun!), more missions, and target Intel blank sheets. Wow! The website also has pins, patches, posters, death certificates, t-shirts, etc. for fans to pick up if they love the game, which I suspect they will. Mind you, I’m not trying to sell you anything here, but WOW! What a bunch of cool-ass stuff! But wait, there’s MORE, and this may be the best part: there is a gigantor expansion for MoD. The Side Effects expansion includes more than 600 additional cards to plan deaths with: Death Cards, a Genre Deck, Intel, and what they call “Web Pals + Chums,” cards designed by famous Web personalities and illustrators (these cards are particularly awesome, according to ME).

There you have it…one of my favorite games in my collection. I’m happy to admit I have pretty much everything available for this game. Yes, I love assassination THAT much! This game is perfect for nights when you need a break from heavier games but are still in the mood for some mayhem and murder. I’ve rarely played MoD in public without some random stranger begging to please sit in on the next game. I strongly urge all of my readers to take the time and effort to find a copy and pick this up as soon as possible…or my friends and I will kill you.


Designer: David Fooden, David Malki, and Kris Straub
Artists: Kris Straub
Publisher: TopatoCo
Published: 2013
Players/Playtime: 2-4 players/30 min
Suggested Player Age: 15+


Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.


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Exclusive: Killer Klowns Live On in This Hell’s Kitty Clip!



At this point, I think we’re all in agreement that the 1988 sci-fi horror/comedy Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a beloved cult classic, adored by horror fans the world over. Fans have been clamoring for a sequel for years and it always seems like one is right over the horizon but never quite within grasp.

While I can’t give you the sequel news you’ve been waiting decades for, I can give you a fresh taste of Killer Klowns with this exclusive clip from the upcoming horror/comedy Hell’s Kitty in which Charlie Chiodo himself dons the coulrophobia-inducing suit!

Hell’s Kitty tells of a covetous feline that acts possessed and possessive of his owner around women.

Hell’s Kitty is written and directed by Nicholas Tana, based on his own comic, and is produced by Denise Acosta. It stars Doug Jones (The Shape of Water), Dale Midkiff (Pet Sematary), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Courtney Gains (The Children of The Corn), Lynn Lowry (Cat People), Kelli Maroni (Night of The Comet), Ashley C. Williams (The Human Centipede), Barbara Nedeljakova (Hostel), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), and John Franklin (The Addams Family).


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Kane Hodder Wants to Play Michael Myers In a Halloween Movie



While there are some names in horror that elude even the biggest fans, one name that I think is all but a household name at this point is Kane Hodder.

But for the few out there that might not know, Kane Hodder is most famous for playing Jason Voorhees in Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood through Jason X.

On top of that, Hodder is known for playing Victor Crowley in Adam Green’s Hatchet series and he has been the stunt coordinator on endless feature films.

But some cool things people might not know about Hodder, however, is that on top of playing Jason and Victor Crowley, Hodder has played Freddy Krueger (at least his glove in Jason Goes to Hell) and a brief stint as Leatherface in Jeff Burr’s Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III.

As you can imagine, for a man that had played so many of horror’s most classic characters there probably isn’t much on the man’s bucket list. That said, there is one iconic mask Hodder would still love the chance to wear in a feature film.

Can you guess which one?

Of course, you can. It’s in the headline. But all the same, yes, Hodder was recently speaking with We Got this Covered at Astronomicon and revealed that he would love a chance to play Michael Myers in a Halloween flick.

“It’s pretty cool to say I did one shot as Freddy, several scenes as Leatherface, four of the movies as Jason,” Hodder told the site. “I just need to do a movie version somehow of Michael [Myers].”

Kane Hodder as Michael Myers? This almost sounds too good to be true. I can only hope that this fanboy dream comes to fruition in the near future. After all, Hodder would make a… wait for it… killer Michael Myers.

What do you think? Let us know below!

To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story (review) will be released this July.


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