Guillermo del Toro Talks Frankenstein And Playing Chess With The MPAA On The Set Of Mama

By Katey Rich 2012-10-25 11:55:18discussion comments
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How important is it to make sure that the ghost stuff in this is different from what we’ve see before?
Well I think he is very aware of it. I mean I there are moments where if you trace the lineage of ghosts in film, there’s a moment where Mario Bava intersects with J Horror, J Horror intersects with Devil’s Backbone and there’s no way of not threading some stuff that has been done, so as long as you don’t have a guy in a blanket you are doing quite alright. One of the things I did in Devil’s Backbone is I was like “Let’s not just change the ghosts, let’s change the atmosphere around it, so that there’s something that the ghost brings into our world” and we are doing stuff like that in Mama that is interesting.

Do you see that there is a struggle between filmmakers who are trying to tell a traditional ghost story versus those who are kind of adapting to the Paranormal Activity found footage faux documentary style which seems to be catching on a lot more than a traditional ghost story?
A lot more and I understand why. I mean I’m a big sucker for all of the Ghost Hunters and you know Paranormal Witness… I watch all of that stuff. But I think there’s a value in the tradition. Sometimes like going very traditional is very hard for the hardcore, like us new devices make people simply more interested, but I always think… the way I see it is there’s always a new generation being exposed to the genre.

For me the biggest tragedy inevitably was the Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark R rating. I didn’t want to remove anything, but it was a kid’s movie. We made it for it to be the scariest “Goosebumps” episode ever made and I really still hope that younger audiences catch it.

What are you taking with you from that R rating on Don’t Be Afraid into this? Obviously that’s a lesson in learning what you can and can’t do to kids.
We asked very concretely “Why do we have the R?” And they said, “No matter what you change, it’s an R” and they just said “Pervasive scariness” which is great… They said, “If you want to try, you should take out the moments of violence here, here, and here.” It was like “We might as well not make the movie…” “We don’t want to see the girl near a knife. We don’t want to see the moment where the creature takes a swipe with the blade at her feet” and you go “All right, $15 million less at the box office…” Which is fine. I think the lesson is frankly if I had to go back and change it to a PG-13 and make it more successful, I would not do it. Again like now, so I guess I didn’t learn my fucking lesson, but what I did learn the lesson on is that no matter how much you pre-plan it, the MPAA will have a different point of view, because we literally… There’s no profanity in Don’t Be Afraid. For me it’s one of the most disserving PG-13 movies. The opening is what freaked them out also with the teeth, which I must admit I was very happy with.

Is that a situation that you are going to be facing here with Mama?
Probably. I think we will take it step by step. I think that the spirit of the opening in Don’t Be Afraid was so mean. We don’t have anything like that. This is much more classical like The Orphanage, but The Orphanage got an R also. I don’t know, I can’t figure it out. I can’t play chess with the MPAA.
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