What if Disney made a horror movie? No, really think about that for a moment. Visualise what that might be like, the stunning attention to detail, the costumes, props and eye-popping sets and special effects. Now add the darkness, not Disney darkness mind you, although they are quite dark at times I guess, but real visceral macabre stuff. Are you getting the picture? Good, then you’re somewhat close to where “The Shape of Water” is. It’s no surprise that Guillermo del Toro’s latest feels like Disney gone evil. The writer and director is a self confessed Disney nut himself and in fact has been connected with a movie version of “The Haunted Mansion” attraction for many years. The less said about that Eddie Murphy thing the better.
It would be very easy to describe “The Shape of Water” as a throwback to classic 1950’s creature features, most notably “Creature from the Lagoon” but there’s more going on here than that. Set in the early sixties, the movie focuses on the relationship between a timid mute girl, and a strange aquatic creature that has been contained in an undisclosed government laboratory where the girl works as a cleaner.
The connection between the two who communicate through sign is strange and fascinating and in general the movies themes of love, beauty and ugliness are explored so well through the pair and their oppressor the omnipresent and evil colonel Strickland, played wonderfully by the amazing Michael Shannon.
As mentioned earlier this is Disney aesthetics with an edge, Disney with big razor sharp fangs if you will. Del Toro’s earlier work “Pans Labyrinth” possessed that same aura, that same beautiful dichotomy of the dark and ugly against the beautiful and the breathtaking (that sounds like an 80’s T.V. show right!?) Like “Pans Labyrinth” the movie bathes your eyes in gorgeous scenes of true cinematic poetry and then just as quickly gouges them out in a flash of severity. It can be so unexpected and can even leave true horror veterans at unease. To dwell on these aspects however is to lose sight of the remarkable web that the writer / director has spun.
“The Shape of Water” is exactly what we need in cinemas, bold daring, and beautiful even at it’s most ugly and a true worthy best picture winner (This is in fact the second year in a row that the academy has got it right). The movie begs for your undivided attention to soak up all its wonderful nuance and wicked charm.
If you haven’t checked out any of his other movies, please do yourself a favour and watch “Pans Labyrinth” at the very least, the movie probably closest in tone to this although most of his back catalogue is a treasure trove of dark fantasy. Many congratulations to him on his most deserving of wins. It truly is a breath of fresh air to see something of its nature being recognised and acclaimed at the highest of levels. Now, please, Disney let this man direct “The Haunted Mansion”. Please.
The Shape of Water is copyright of Fox SearchLight Pictures & Guillermo del Toro. No infringement is intended. All content used here is used for review purpose only.