If you’ve ever wondered what Guillermo Del Toro’s house looked like, LACMA has you covered.
My love affair with Guillermo del Toro movies goes back to before I even knew who he was. After watching Hellboy, I needed to know more about this fascinating director. So I looked up his back catalog of films. To my surprise he directed Blade 2 which I loved, and Mimic which I had seen and thoroughly enjoyed. Pan’s Labryinth, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, The Strain tv series, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark, and Crimson Peak are also among my favorites. del Toro’s films always have a rich tapestry of characters living in unique worlds. His fascination with outsiders, monsters, freaks, insects and dark imagery resonate with me on a deep level. I often wondered if he lived in a home like his films. Did he surround himself with creepy creatures to inspire? Or did he leave all that at the office, so to say. Happily the former is true.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art put together an exhibition of objects from Guillermo del Toro’s own collection called, “At Home with Monsters.” The exhibition was divided into sections, each exploring a theme prevalent in Del Toro’s films. Childhood & Innocence, Beauty and Brutality, Death and Resurrection, Magic Alchemy & The Occult, Insects and Monsters. The objects are displayed in a way that evokes a homey feel.
Large bookcases holding sculptures, movie memorabilia, dolls, puppets, and taxidermy line the walls. I won’t even go into how insanely jealous I am of his used and rare book collection. I saw Art Annuals from the early 1800s! I was fascinated with what most people would consider some seriously strange knick-knacks. Each case held something new to explore. That is, if you could nudge your way between the crowds of people all fighting for a peek.
This exhibition was undoubtedly and deservedly popular. So I decided not to follow the sections as laid out in the exhibition catalog, but rather stroll into which ever room was the least crowded at the moment. I don’t think the order in which you view the objects was all that important. In one of the first rooms I visited, gowns from Crimson Peak were on display. Two of Lucille Sharpe’s dresses, Edith Cushing’s gauzy nightdress and the ghost of Edith Cushing’s mother. As beautiful as Kate Hawley’s Victorian frocks appeared in the movie, seeing them up close was amazing. There was so much detail to take in. So many layers of taffeta, velvet, silk, vintage lace, and that hand pleated red silk train made me want another wedding, just so I could have an excuse to wear it.
Guillermo del Toro named his own residence, “Bleak House” after Charles Dickens’s novel, which he describes as “essentially an indictment of the judicial system in England — a labyrinth, a maze that made it difficult for common folk to access justice.” Makes sense to me, since so many del Toro films explore labyrinths, mazes and puzzles as themes.
del Toro wanted Bleak House, where he works most frequently to feel like a world apart. Drawing on his own experience as a special effects designer, he created a permanent thunderstorm, a “Rain Room.” LACMA recreated this with false windows spattered with silicone raindrops and a non-stop thunderstorm soundtrack. Appropriately enough this room contains a very lifelike sculpture of Edgar Allan Poe, entitled “Once Upon a Midnight Dreary.” The hyper realistic sculptures by Thomas Kuebler appear throughout the exhibit. I kept waiting for them to turn their eyes to meet mine. If Night at the Museum were true. This place would be real spooky after closing time. del Toro’s fascination with monsters and freaks is heavily displayed. Including characters from Tod Brownings film Freaks, which del Toro Counts among the most singular works in cinema history. “Full of iconic moments of pure cinema, pulp horror, carny noir, perverse melodrama – Freaks is still unclassifiable after many decades, Still sick, twisted, perverse and profoundly human.”
There was an entire section dedicated to Frankenstein. del Toro describes Shelley’s novel as “the purest of fables — working both as a straight narrative and as a symbolic one.” It’s obvious that Frankenstein had a huge impact on del Toro. He’s collected numerous sketches, paintings and concept art depicting possibly the most famous monster in history. I loved how the Mike Hill sculptures were staged. In one room you had to look through the window to view Frankenstein, his love and his creator. It was like a life size diorama. Or, like peeking in on a scene from a play. The other sculpture of Boris Karloff getting his makeup done features such whimsy and humor. It was my favorite.
I never would have guessed that del Toro was such a huge fan of Disney. All throughout the exhibition I saw concept art and original drawings from many Disney movies. The Marc Davis Medusa print from the Haunted Mansion really caught my eye. Apparently del Toro included that attraction as one of his favorite places He’s even made mention of making a live-action horror film inspired by the ride. Oh Guillermo, don’t toy with my emotions like that!!!
Hellboy and Hellboy 2: The Golden Army are the type of film that no matter how many times I’ve seen them, if I’m flipping channels and they’re on tv, I always stop. I get sucked in every time. It was so cool to see a lot of the actual props on display. The illuminated book was everything I dreamed it would be and that Big Baby gun, is really big.
TIPS TO KNOW, BEFORE YOU GO
- This is the LAST WEEK of the exhibition. So get your tickets now! I purchased mine the day before so I could pick them up at will call. You have to buy a specific time slot. There were people in line trying to purchase them on their phone and the tickets were sold out until the end of the day. So don’t wait until the last minute.
- Leave yourself some extra time. My purchased time slot was 2pm. I arrived fifteen minutes early to allow for parking and waiting in the will call line. It was barely enough time. When I did get my tickets, I was told there was a short wait to enter the exhibition. They only let so many people in at a time. The line moved rather quickly and I was inside the exhibit by 2:15pm.
- Yes, it will be crowded. Especially since this is the final week. But I promise you it’s worth it. Just try to be courteous and ignore the few smelly people. I blocked out everyone else and barely made eye contact with anyone that wasn’t a silicone and resin sculpture.
- Grab an index on your way in. There is no way I would ever remember all the amazing objects on display, or the talented artists that created them. So grab an index which has a complete list of the objects on view. It also offered up many insights from del Toro himself as to why he likes a certain piece or artist. For instance, he has so many clocks on display because he “likens the films themselves to clockwork in their precision.” Fancy that!
I really enjoyed my hour long visit to Bleak House. It gave me a truer sense of Guillermo del Toro’s fandom. He is a collector of the strange and unusual. He, just like so many of us loves what he loves fiercely. I am so thankful he decided to share his love with all of us.
Go check out At Home with Monsters at LACMA.