One of the most fascinating tidbits about fantasy/horror director Guillermo del Toro in the new hardcover book Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters is that del Toro grew up in a collecting home. His father had won the lottery. The details aren’t discussed, but after reading this book, which focuses on one of del Toro’s homes where he displays a collection of fantasy and horror memorabilia, any read would ask where would someone get the money to buy all these things. The closest comparison would be Michael Jackson’s purchase of oddities like Joseph Merrick’s bones. Jackson had billions, but del Toro, whose career has only taken off since the 1990s, has amassed a collection that doesn’t reflect that extreme level of purchasing yet. But he’s on his way.
Guillermo del Toro is known for his visions of fantasy horror as seen in his Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Mimic, Crimson Peak, and even the beginnings of The Hobbit trilogy. Many are unaware of his creepy home full of fantasy and horror relics that he calls Bleak House. Think of the beginning of an episode of The Ray Bradbury Theater or Friday the 13th TV series or that shop where an old man found a Mogwai for his son in Gremlins and you’ll have an idea of the oddities to be found.
Some of the purchases on display are unique, some rare, but most appear to be mass market items, books, toys, statues, action figures. They cram the rooms of his house much like many people you know who have an obsession with collecting. Sure, del Toro’s house may be creepier than most–custom mannequins of horror greats like H.P. Lovecraft, Ray Harryhausen and Edgar Allen Poe appear to be living in this lair–but Bleak House does not look like anyone actually lives there. A retreat for storing research materials seems more likely. Could anyone, even a fan of all these monsters, wake up everyday to a gigantic head of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster?
An unusual art exhibition about del Toro premiered in August in Los Angeles at the L.A. County Museum of Art, and that exhibition was expanded into this book. Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters includes photographs, pages from his journals, and interviews with the director and museum professionals. This book is as much about the history of collecting and storing what man amasses in museums through the centuries as much as it is about the idea that what someone collects often says everything about that person.
Ultimately this book would be quite useful to Museum Studies classes as well as students of fantasy and horror. Why do we collect things? Why do we display our treasures the way we do? How did del Toro’s past determine what he became as an adult? And what does it say about a person who amasses this kind of collection? Fans of comic books will appreciate his attention to Jack Kirby. Horror fans will see his fascination with Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine and Forrest Ackerman.
As creepy as the images del Toro creates, but also insightful and a great look at what makes the director tick, Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters is available now here from Amazon.com.