The anthology series will allow the ‘Shape of Water’ director to be both creator and curator of a genre he’s shown ample love for.
To experience fear while watching a Guillermo del Toro production is not to be unequivocally repulsed by ghosts or creatures from the great unknown. Instead, del Toro has always been a champion for finding beauty in the things we are expected to stay away from, while critiquing the problematic nature of the institutions that inspire such anxieties. A scary del Toro film oftentimes means a unique one.
So, to hear that del Toro is working on more true-blue horror ventures is a total treat. As reported by Deadline, he will be developing an original live-action horror anthology series titled Guillermo del Toro Presents 10 After Midnight in partnership with Netflix. This will be the streaming service’s first foray into the horror anthology market.
10 After Midnight will be a curation of the most “sophisticated” of episodic horror stories. Del Toro is slated to write and direct some of the episodes, but there will be room for new filmmakers and the most promising horror writers to hone their potential under del Toro’s overarching vision.
I have truly never been so quick to put something on My List on Netflix. Del Toro is such a cinephile and cultural enthusiast that it’s easy to get excited about anything he deigns worthy of his creative magic. But there is no denying that his deep appreciation for horror themes shines through in all of his work, even in his least horrific offerings, and that makes an entire series dedicated to scary stuff so gripping.
The below quote from the 33rd Santa Barbara International Film Festival made rounds over the internet throughout this past awards season. Del Toro was out there doing the grind, promoting the film that would ultimately win him his long-overdue Academy Award for Best Director — The Shape of Water. However, his words absolutely bear repeating in light of the announcement of 10 After Midnight:
“When Mexico was conquered, there was a phenomenon called syncretism, in which the Catholic religion of the conquerors fused with the old religion. In my case, that happened with Catholicism and monsters. They fused. When I was a young kid, I truly was redeemed by these figures. Where other people saw horror, I saw beauty. And where people saw normalcy, I saw horror. I realized that the true monsters are in the human heart. It was not their appearance.”
What’s truly fascinating about del Toro’s movies is how they defy any straightforward categorizations of “scary,” and it’s probably all his love for so-called monstrosity seeping through. Admittedly, studios sometimes do a poor job of exemplifying this trait of his films via their marketing tactics, preferring to upsell typical tenets of a mainstream horror movie but sacrificing the intricate ways in which those scares are woven into the fabric of del Toro’s stories. We saw that happen with Crimson Peak. Audiences then form their own expectations over whether a “horror movie” like that is worth it, and sadly, the box office did not demonstrate evidence of enthusiasm.
However, in an interview with The Wrap, del Toro easily clarifies his movie-making approach:
“I have produced scary movies, but I like to direct creepy movies. The fuel of the movie is an atmosphere, and a sort of ill feeling of eeriness than anything else.”
And that’s obvious to anyone who’s seen the breadth of his work. Whether you’re watching The Devil’s Backbone or Pan’s Labyrinth or even Crimson Peak, the implicit and persistent nature of del Toro’s eerie horror motifs becomes clear. His films may feature ghosts and monsters but they primarily take root in the audience’s hearts. This sort of tenderness and persuasiveness — that makes an audience empathize with the scary instead of immediately run from it — makes the fear count. It ensures that del Toro’s horror is worth sticking around for. What better way to house those themes together than in an anthology?
The practice of fostering new voices within the format of the series is also a great way to keep 10 After Midnight fresh. The gesture comes as no surprise as Del Toro is constantly looking to the horizon for burgeoning talent. But on a purely creative level, the inclusion of a diverse group of writers and directors would serve 10 After Midnight well, as long as del Toro finds talent that adequately fits in with his general aesthetic. Yet upon looking at the horror-based movies he’s produced over the years — Julia’s Eyes, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and Mama — that doesn’t seem to be a problem for him. The master curator shouldn’t disappoint.
After the incredible success of Trollhunters (which won an Emmy Award), del Toro is now set to corner both the animation and live-action audiences on one of the most dominant streaming services. Furthermore, del Toro has sealed deals with Fox Searchlight and DreamWorks Animation to write, produce and direct movies tailor-made for specific demographics. He’s also producing and co-writing an adaptation of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, for which this Netflix anthology feels like a more mature sister project. We’ll be seeing a lot more of this visionary director, and honestly we can only celebrate.