Guillermo del Toro is one of the nicest, most passionate and most sincere filmmakers you will ever see at Comic-Con (or anywhere), which is why he's so popular every year at this shindig. But the guy also knows a thing or two about horror movies, so when he says something is scary ... best pay attention.
He was on the stage in Hall H on Friday to talk about Don't Be Afraid of the Dark, which he produced and co-wrote with Matthew Robbins for first-time director Troy Nixey. The film, a semi-remake of a pretty frightening 1973 TV movie, is about a little girl (Bailee Madison) who moves into a new home with her dad (Guy Pearce) and his girlfriend (Katie Holmes) and discovers that there are creatures living underneath the house ... and they're not nice creatures either.
Del Toro and Nixey showed off a teaser trailer for the movie which is full of whispering voices, low point-of-view shots, creepy shadows and close-ups of people screaming. This one seems all about atmosphere and mood and dread, but a last shot of the little girl crawling under her bedsheets and getting a nasty surprise in her face sends the entire auditorium collectively jumping out of their seats.
"What the f--k was that?" yells del Toro as thunderous applause fills the room. "I think I just s--t my pants." (The big man warns too late that children should leave the room due to his colorful language.)
Del Toro goes on to explain that the original TV movie did in fact scare the crap out of him when he was a little boy, and that he eventually secured the rights (when he grew up) and wrote the script for a remake 11 years ago. He discovered Nixey after seeing one of his short films and signed the young Canadian up to make this his first feature. Their goal is to make a real horror movie, and del Toro says they got an R rating simply because of "pervasive scariness."
The pair next showed us a prologue, set in the early 20th century, in which the house's original owner has to do something really terrible to his maid to get his child back from the boogeymen under the house. It's horrific without being gory, and gets another hearty round of applause from the audience, who clearly love anything to do with del Toro.
Speaking of which, the filmmaker says that in addition to producing and writing a new version of The Haunted Mansion for Disney (announced on Thursday), he's developing a "very strange" version of Pinocchio and will also direct another all-new horror movie next May, with details yet to be revealed.
As for The Hobbit, which he just left, del Toro says, "I hope they get made, I hope they get made as soon as possible because the world needs them, and I hope Peter Jackson directs them."
In the meantime, watch out for Don't Be Afraid of the Dark—an ironic title if we ever heard one—which arrives in January.