"The Weekend Rent" offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Fridays.
Unlike other producers that lend their names to productions for which they have little involvement, Guillermo del Toro takes a personal interest in the movies he shepherds through development. The director of Pan's Labyrinth, Cronos and Hellboy knows firsthand how to get under the skin with fantastical imagery, and the directors he backs as a producer seem to be on the same page.
Look at director Andre Muschetti's freaky Mama, which is now playing in theaters everywhere. Based on Muschetti's 2008 short film of the same name, Mama stars Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain as woman tasked with helping to raise her boyfriend's near-feral nieces that were found after being lost in the woods for five years. Unfortunately for Chastain, the girls are followed by a terrifying supernatural presence they call "Mama"—and saying she is a tad overprotective would be an understatement.
Del Toro cowrote and produced 2011's Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, directed by comic book artist Troy Nixey. A remake of the 1973 made-for-TV movie, Don't Be Afraid of the Dark stars Guy Pearce, Katie Holmes and Bailiee Madison as a father, his girlfriend and his daughter, respectively, who move into a 19th-century Rhode Island mansion that he begins to renovate. The withdrawn little girl begins to see terrifying little creatures that emerge from a sealed ash pit in the basement, but it takes some convincing—and some injuries to others—before her father and his girlfriend start to believe the house has a unique pest problem. It's a slow build until the dark fairies finally reveal themselves to young Madison in her bedroom… and they are truly the stuff of nightmares.
Disturbing on a whole other level is the 2009 sci-fi shocker Splice, directed by Vincenzo Natali and produced by del Toro. The story follows two genetic engineers (Adrien Brody and Sarah Polley) as the couple try to splice animal DNA to create new animals for medical use. They eventually cross the line and experiment with splicing human DNA, resulting in a hybrid creature with a long tail they name Dren, which is "nerd" spelled backwards. Like most teenagers, Dren grows petulant as she quickly grows into adolescence. She also develops an unnatural attraction to Brody, who—in one of the most wrong scenes ever filmed in the annals of science fiction—gives in to his desires and experiments with his experiment.
Before he made the heartbreaking tsunami-survival story The Impossible with Ewan McGregor and Oscar-nominated Naomi Watts, director J.A. Bayona made his feature debut with the chilling Spanish horror film The Orphanage in 2007. Bayona and del Toro were already friends when Bayona approached del Toro to help produce the film about a woman named Laura (Belen Rueda) who returns to her childhood home—an abandoned orphanage—that she hopes to turn into a home for disabled children. Things take a turn for the creepy when Laura's son, Simon, speaks of a masked friend named Tomás with whom he says he will run away. After Simon disappears, Laura frantically searches the house and grounds for her son and begins to uncover the chilling history of the orphanage… and what the house's ghostly inhabitants want of her.
All of the Guillermo del Toro-produced movies listed above are available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as on various VOD services.