Guillermo's Monsters | A Sorta Review of The Shape of Water (2017)

Normally...this space would be reserved for the kind of review that you have grown to love from Film Deviant. Ok...admittedly, "love" is a strong word for my reviews. But, if you've been paying attention...I always format my reviews in a sort of FD patented manner. I begin with a stinger, move into some background stuff regarding the creation process of said film, then...I go into the story stuff...following that up with technical stuff (actors, FX, some critiques here and there, good points, flaws, etc.). Finally...I end the whole thing with a brief (usually one paragraph) summation of my thoughts, final breakdown and recommendation...or not. Pretty standard stuff...if you've been reading Film Deviant for a while now.

Well...this is gonna stray from the normal FD recipe. Think of this particular "review" as more of a piece on how much Guillermo del Toro fucking rules. And his latest film...The Shape of Water, is a perfect example of why he fucking rules. And if you have been lucky (unlucky...depending on mood, I suppose) enough to have been reading FD all this time...then you will surely understand one thing: I love to switch things up...simply for the hell of it.

Anyway...let us begin...shall we?

I first became aware of del Toro's work when I rented Cronos  all those years back at my local video store. It was after I strayed from West Coast Video after my discovery of another video store that had a bigger horror selection. They had more foreign Cronos. They also had wall-to-wall carpeting...that I remembered feeling much more inviting...than the stark white walls from West Coast Videos. They also had all the really cool horror standees that you see on eBay these days fetching crazy prices. And so, I rented Cronos after reading about it in Fangoria. Things were much simpler in those times. One would pick up a copy of Fango and thumb through the magazine. Often finding recommendations throughout a particular issue. Whether it be the review section, the "check out" section in the very front...or just one of the many articles that the publication focused on. In this happened to be a nice article written about his 1993 debut...Cronos. There was blood and a gold bug like thing that drew me closer to the film. I had to find out what it was about. Especially that crazy looking gold bug thing. It was the weirdest vampire film that I've ever seen up to that point. And goddamn beautiful and sad. So human...and tender. In those days...I was on this weird brutality, I was more interested in stuff like Cannibal Holocaust  and Salo...and things like that. You a young skateboarder, we would go out and session all day...then, afterwards, we would head to one of each other's houses (whose ever parents were away) and offer up our own forbidden film from our backpacks that we may have heard about from somewhere...trying our hardest to outdo the other. My best friend at the time worked at a video, I was able to find my selections pretty easily. We would spend our evenings watching stuff like Caligula, I Spit on Your Grave and so on. So...watching something like Cronos, which is a much tamer film than say...Cannibal Ferox, certainly gave me pause. You see...a film like Cronos  doesn't pound you over the head like...say...Necromantik (1 & 2). However, it settles deep inside you...and lives there much longer. A del Toro film stands the test of time. Not to say that the Necromantik  films don't do that. They just do that in a different...more disturbing...kinda way.

I will say...that when I got to del Toro's Mimic...well...I was a little let down. was an enjoyable little action-packed monster didn't feel as intimate as Cronos. So, it didn't feel like a del Toro film. Later...he revealed...that the final actually...not his film. Then...Devil's Backbone came out...and I fell head over heels in love with del Toro - the storyteller/filmmaker. He had me with that film. Ugh. Such a beautiful foray into horror...that felt unlike anything else at the moment. And, more importantly, it a del Toro film. Completely.

Then, Hellboy  and Blade 2. Solid entries...but, not my personal favorites.

Then...Pan's Labyrinth.


This one made me a del Toro fan for fucking life. Forever. If The Devil's Backbone  is my personal favorite film of his...Pan's Labyrinth  is his undisputed masterpiece. A fairy tale...on a different level...unlike anything I've ever seen before. Tender, personal, gorgeous...and, yet...powerful, violent, moving. Pan's Labyrinth  is...everything I've ever wanted from a film. It is...for lack of a better term...perfect fucking filmmaking. PERFECT. 

As much as I really dug both Pacific Rim  and Crimson Peak...they were definitely not anywhere close to what he he managed to create with Pan's Labyrinth...or even Devil's Backbone, for that matter. But...they were both still my humblest of opinions. I adored the Kaiju balls out nature of Pacific Rim...and the gorgeous cinematic call back of Crimson Peak. I will say, tho...the more I watch Crimson Peak...the more I really love it. It is certainly a passion-filled piece of artwork. When Guillermo loves a certain period or style of really shows in his work. There's enough hate going around...everywhere...for these films...but, I'm able to truly appreciate his work much deeper than surface level. I understand his language as a storyteller...and I think that has been the case since Devil's Backbone. Which brings me to The Shape of Water.

Oh my lord...The Shape of Water.

It is unlike anything else out there right now. I's kinda like Splash...meets Creature from the Black Lagoon...with a pinch of any other Sci-Fi break-a-creature-out-of-a-government-laboratory premise. However...this one feels different. Now...that's not me succumbing to silly hyperbole. After all...I'm one of the five people in this world that went to see Crimson Peak  when that came out...and really dug it. But...I dunno. There's nothing like a del Toro film, man. Nothing. He has his own signature and you can just feel the love he has for the genre in every frame. He is a purposeful and deliberate filmmaker in every sense. Whenever he sets up a scene and yells "Action!" is as if he is breathing life and soul into the film. You just have a feeling that he is connecting to his stories on a much deeper level...than...say...the most recent Mummy  film, for instance. It's a powerful thing...and you certainly get a sense of that with The Shape of Water. I loved the film.

Now...personally speaking, my favorite del Toro films are The Devil's Backbone  and Pan's Labyrinth...mostly because...I just connect with those films much more. But...Shape of such a special film, tho. It is the essence of a love story between two different words that understand the same exact a singular moment. I love that stuff. I'm a sucker for that stuff....and this one had me hooked in that way. Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones make this film. Together...with del Toro's is the perfect representation of two souls finding one another from such different places. But...fate, as it has it...brings them together. Such a lovely sentiment that propels this film into something much more. Whenever the two are onscreen...their performances are so organic and so bleeds from the screen and truly take you away.

I will say...some of the other performances, which I was looking forward to...fell a tad flat for me. Most specifically...Michael Shannon's antagonist. I was hoping for a much more potent role...but, the way he plays Strickland...felt a little too on the nose and familiar to me. Almost as if...he was just calling up a past performance from his long resume. I wanted it to go a little deeper and...I dunno...surprise me on a different level. Especially given the complexity of this new government landscape....where you don't know the face of your enemy anymore. I almost wanted Shannon to be less transparent and predictable. I wanted more of a threat that you didn't see coming. I kind of predicted every one of his character beats...and that was a bit of a let down for me. Octavia Spencer...also felt a little wasted to me. While she did provide some fun was nothing that we haven't seen already in another performance. She is such a talent...and I kinda wish del Toro used her much more.

Still...everything else was great, in my humble opinion...and I cannot recommend this film enough. It is an amazing cinematic experience unlike anything else you will find at the multiplex right now. Kind of a shame that it didn't get a much wider I think it is a story that needs to be seen by the masses. But...for the del Toro fans out there...The Shape of Water  is certainly a delight for all the well as a welcome invitation back into one of the best places one can be, cinematically speaking--del Toro's heart. His love for monsters is felt in every single frame...and I count myself as fortunate that we live in a world where he lets us into his intimate space up on the big screen. Please...see this film.

Thanks for reading,