Written & Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Ron Perlman, Doug Jones, Selma Blair, Jeffrey Tambor, and John Hurt
A demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness.
The hulking red demon known as Hellboy might not have the star power of Superman or Batman, but I promise he’s no less a star. Hellboy is more human than many of his spandex-wearing brethren. He files his giant horns down to fit in, he knows true love, the monster knows a fondness for cats, and he’s willing to sacrifice himself for his friends. Hellboy was discovered by the US Bureau For Paranormal Research And Defence in 1945 while gunning after Hitler and his occult forces. Professor Bruttenholm (Hurt), a kind soul, takes Hellboy in and raises the child as his own. The relationship is special, adding a charming soul to the film, a sweetness that makes the far out characters as real as you or me. I’m a cat guy, so I appreciated the affinity for God’s perfect felines.
Of course, there’s a big bad for the ages, someone worthy of an epic brawl with this tail-waging agent of BPRD. The slow burn towards the endgame is filled with beautiful and atmospheric mood that de Toro seems to have trademarked. The same look and feel of films like Pan’s Labyrinth are present and practical in del Toro’s world. The film has a decidedly Lovecraft influence in the monsters and sense of Gothic dread, another del Toro stamp that fits like a glove.
Fans of del Toro has mixed reviews of his Blade 2 film, a Marvel Comics movie starring Wesley Snipes as the feared Daywalker. The film was a great win for CGI, but left many fans claiming it was fast and furious to a fault. A director that learns the art of adapting to constructive criticism is a rare man. Taking some advice from peers and fans, del Toro brought a special effects wet dream to life while maintaining a sense of realism. The fight scenes are over-the-top, a common requirement for these kind of films, but a visual treat that doesn’t need us to enable the slow-motion feature to enjoy. Hellboy serves up some of the coolest brawls, giving Ron Perlman another major path to direct his refreshing swagger.
Packed with frenetic pacing and balanced with the paranormally mundane, Hellboy is crack for the eyes. I don’t know any horror-centric comic fans that dislikes this movie. Of course, geeks are vocal about what they would have done differently, but del Toro earned his 80% fresh rating on rottentomatoes.com. If you haven’t seen this yet, I recommend it highly. It’s overflowing with rich and robust locations and settings, filled with colorful and creative characters peeled from the very comic pages of Hellboy, and most importantly – this film knows it must have a soul to succeed. The raw passion and love the director puts into this forlorn sleeper is nothing less than a labor of love.