Guillermo Del Toro has made quite a name for himself as a writer, director and producer whose chief concern is weird fiction. Whether he’s crafting tales of gothic suspense and dark parables of fantasy and horror, letting his Lovecraftian influences bleed onto the screen, inviting his audience to munch popcorn while giant machines and savage kaiju do battle, or faithfully recreating comic book characters, he’s made a career out myths, monsters and the supernatural. So when Netflix broke the news that he’ll be at the helm of their first horror anthology series, 10 After Midnight, there may as well have been a peal of thunder, a flash of lightning and a gust of howling wind keening through a doorjamb. This is the kind of news that should have fans of the weird and horrifying gleefully hiding their garlic and crucifixes, brushing the dust off their necronomicons, and staring into the mirror while they chant the director’s name three times. “Del Toro. Del Toro. Del Toro.”
At the moment, there’s no definite release date for the show, which is the first live action series Del Toro has sold to the streaming service, but it will see the Academy Award-winning auteur executive produce the series and write and direct select episodes. We’re still waiting for an estimated episode count, but we do know that the series will also be executive produced by The Shape of Water producer, J. Miles Dale and Gary Ungar of Exile Entertainment.
So what can viewers of the show expect? While anything posited at the moment is little more than an educated guess, here’s what we think at NerdBastards…
A healthy dose of Lovecraft
Del Toro has never hidden his love of Providence’s father of cosmic horror. He’s long been linked with a live action version of Lovecraft’s At The Mountains of Madness, and considering he’s been pictured in front of full-sized concept models of the giant penguins that movie would have had to feature, it must have been a lot closer to fruition than many realised. Of course, Lovecraft’s catalogue – including the Cthulhu Mythos – is comprehensive, and with the vast bulk of it consisting of short stories ripe for adaptation by a director who’s said he has plenty of scripts based on Lovecraft’s shorts and is just looking for the backing to make them, who would bet against seeing one of them appearing in 10 After Midnight? Fingers crossed for The Rats in the Walls or The Shadow Over Innsmouth.
A dark and twisted fairy-tale
Fairy-tales gone dark haven’t exactly been in short demand in recent years, but whenever Del Toro has mined mythology and folklore he’s always managed to avoid the Hollywood clichés. He’s been able to exploit the base fears that were the all-too-real motivation behind many of them and make them his own. Consider Pan’s Labyrinth’s faun or Hellboy II’s tooth fairies. Fear of the forest, the big bad wolf, or even a pox-scarred witch; Del Toro could certainly take one of them and reinvent it for the here and now. With his special effects and masterful use of suspense and tension, there’s no doubt he could make something like that work on the small screen.
His own version of a traditional monster
The fact Del Toro turned down the chance to helm the Universal Monsters franchise that’s already been staked, beheaded and shot with a silver bullet is well documented, but you’d have to be nuts if you didn’t draw a link between The Creature From The Black Lagoon and The Shape of Water. Similarly, his vampire novels (and television series), The Strain, pay explicit homage to Stoker’s Dracula and we’ve reported before that Del Toro has also tried to get his own adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, off the ground. Considering the massive success of The Shape of Water and Del Toro’s bona fide love for these classic monsters, it’s not unthinkable that he’ll revisit the idea in 10 After Midnight.
What would a horror anthology be without at least one demon from the bowels of Hell to torture a morally questionable protagonist? Del Toro, as you probably know, hails from Mexico. He’s spoken before about the influence of Catholicism on his work, and where there’s horror, there’s always the potential of a demon – or an exorcist – to turn heads. Where Del Toro is concerned, that story could manifest in any number of ways. It could be the trope of the priest helping a broken down family, but it could just as easily be that someone finds themselves cursed by an unholy trinket. Either way, it’s another avenue Del Toro could explore in his new series.
Something in the spirit of Tales From the Crypt
The horror anthology genre is a tried and true one. We may be some distance from its heyday now, but when you look at Del Toro’s love of the homage, it’s likely that he’ll include something that nods to the over the top nature of the old Eerie Comics or their flagship magazine, Tales From the Crypt. That probably won’t be the Crypt-keeper, but would likely be a story that fits the mould of the ones found within the pages of those deliberately garish and violent comics. Unruly teenagers trapped in a mortuary and butchered by ghouls, man-eating bugs in a creepy hotel, vicious killers who’ve escaped from prison; I’m down with any premise that influence manifests. Hell, I’d probably even count on Del Toro to introduce a little class to the schlock while he’s at it.
Del Toro’s projects are many and varied, but throughout his suite of work, he’s always let his passion for a certain vein of supernatural horror worm its way through the narratives. Considering 10 After Midnight will be an anthology, there’s probably room to think of it in the same vein as Black Mirror. That means this master of the macabre will have room to pick and choose which of his passions he explores in any number of episodes. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to see him present us with a veritable smorgasbord of horror staples and reinvent the horror anthology to suit modern audiences. Wherever he goes with it, I, like many of you, can’t wait to see it appear on my Netflix account’s recommended list.