SIMON SAYS: What it means when Guillermo del Toro "presents"

by Matthew Seitz
August 27, 2011 8:13 AM
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Press Play is posting a column written for Capital by critic Simon Abrams.

By Simon Abrams
Press Play Contributor

It’s not unusual for a famous director to become a celebrity producer. Film-makers like Quentin Tarantino and Eli Roth use their names to sell films that they’re either helping to get distributed or were an executive producer on. But there’s a big difference between the films that Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro produces and the ones that he “presents.” The Mexican director produces many films, but a project like Puss in Boots is understandably not as personal a project for del Toro as The Orphanage, a film he was both the executive producer and “presenter” of.

When you see a film being advertised as “Guillermo del Toro Presents,” like director Troy Nixey’s new remake of Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, you know that it’s meant not only to be a sign of quality but also of personality. In fact, that angle is being pushed so hard by the film’s press and ad campaign that it led USA Today to run a headline on Monday calling Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark “Director Guillermo del Toro’s latest film.”

But what’s the difference between a film like Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and something like Splice, which is Cube director <a href="%3EVincenzo%20Natali%3C/a%3E%E2%80%99s%20Frankenstein-by-way-of-Cronenberg%20horror%20flick?%20Not%20a%20heckuva%20lot,%20actually.%20Both%20films%20evoke%20similar%20preoccupations%20to%20the%20ones%20in%20del%20Toro%E2%80%99s%20films.%20For%20example,%20the%20gremlin-like%20fairies%20in%20%3Ci%3EDon%E2%80%99t%20Be%20Afraid%20of%20the%20Dark%3C/i%3E%20bear%20a%20striking%20resemblance%20to%20the%20tooth-fairy%20creatures%20in%20%3Ci%3EHellboy%20II%3C/i%3E.%20This%20is%20because%20both%20Nixey%20and%20del%20Toro%20are%20fascinated%20by%20the%20original%201973%20made-for-tv%20movie%20that%20Nixey%E2%80%99s%20remake%20is%20based%20on.%20Also,%20%3Ci%3ESplice%3C/i%3E,%20like%20del%20Toro%E2%80%99s%20%3Ci%3ECronos%3C/i%3E%20and%20%3Ci%3EMimic%3C/i%3E,%20also%20adopts%20a%20clinical,%20detached%20tone%20similar%20to%20the%20kind%20that%20characterize%20%3Ca%20href=" _cke_saved_href=">Vincenzo Natali</a>’s Frankenstein-by-way-of-Cronenberg horror flick? Not a heckuva lot, actually. Both films evoke similar preoccupations to the ones in del Toro’s films. For example, the gremlin-like fairies in <i>Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark</i> bear a striking resemblance to the tooth-fairy creatures in <i>Hellboy II</i>. This is because both Nixey and del Toro are fascinated by the original 1973 made-for-tv movie that Nixey’s remake is based on. Also, <i>Splice</i>, like del Toro’s <i>Cronos</i> and <i>Mimic</i>, also adopts a clinical, detached tone similar to the kind that characterize <a href=" http:="" en.wikipedia.org="" wiki="" david_cronenberg"="">David Cronenberg</a>’s movies. Still, while both <i>Splice</i> and <i>Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark</i> are clearly close to del Toro, one is “presented by” him and one isn’t.</p><p>You can read the rest of Simon's piece <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/culture/2011/08/3130762/what-it-means-when-guillermo-del-toro-presents" _cke_saved_href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/culture/2011/08/3130762/what-it-means-when-guillermo-del-toro-presents">here</a>.</p><p><i>Simon Abrams is a New York-based freelance arts critic. His film reviews and features have been featured in the </i>Village Voice<i>, </i>Time Out New York<i>, </i>Slant Magazine<i>, </i>The L Magazine<i>, </i>New York Press<i> and </i>Time Out Chicago<i>. He currently writes TV criticism for <a href="http://www.avclub.com/users/simon-abrams,54259/" _cke_saved_href="http://www.avclub.com/users/simon-abrams,54259/"></a></i><a href="http://www.avclub.com/users/simon-abrams,54259/" _cke_saved_href="http://www.avclub.com/users/simon-abrams,54259/">The Onion AV Club<i></i></a><i> and is a contributing writer at the <a href="http://classic.tcj.com/superhero/point-counterpoint-simon-abrams-concluding-kick-ass-argument/" _cke_saved_href="http://classic.tcj.com/superhero/point-counterpoint-simon-abrams-concluding-kick-ass-argument/"></a></i><a href="http://classic.tcj.com/superhero/point-counterpoint-simon-abrams-concluding-kick-ass-argument/" _cke_saved_href="http://classic.tcj.com/superhero/point-counterpoint-simon-abrams-concluding-kick-ass-argument/">Comics Journal<i></i></a><i>. His writings on film are collected at the blog, <a href="http://extendedcut.blogspot.com/" _cke_saved_href="http://extendedcut.blogspot.com/"></a></i><a href="http://extendedcut.blogspot.com/" _cke_saved_href="http://extendedcut.blogspot.com/">The Extended Cut<i></i></a><i>.</i></p><p></p><p></p>

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