Guillermo del Toro, a master of making on-screen monsters, unveiled his latest at Comic-Con on Saturday: the Jangly Man, from his upcoming film “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.”
A decomposing corpse that is very much alive, the Jangly Man has a lopsided face with a menacing expression, including two sets of teeth in one smiling mouth. At times he has six appendages, and delivers frights while both standing upright and crawling backwards.
The Jangly Man is at the center of the exclusive trailer shown only to an intimate Comic-Con audience at the Horton Grand Theater on Saturday afternoon. The trailer features his particularly spine-chilling entrance: one by one, his body parts fall down a chimney and splatter all over the floor, only to reassemble into the sinister creature.
Played by contortionist Troy James (“Hellboy,” “Shadowhunters” and the upcoming “It: Chapter Two”) in a foam-latex suit, the Jangly Man is an amalgamation of a few drawings by Stephen Gammell, who illustrated the Alvin Schwartz book series on which the film is based.
Using primarily practical effects, Del Toro and his team worked hard to do justice to Gammell’s black-and-white illustrations, which have haunted Del Toro since he first encountered the book series as a Texas teen. “They were so creepy, so unsettling,” he recalled.
“We were creating designs from something that scared us as kids,” added creature effects supervisor Mike Elizalde. “It was something that was really important for us to try to get right.”
Del Toro also shared behind-the-scenes footage of his meticulous monster-making process, with thorough introductions to previously-seen characters from the movie.
For example, Harold — a horrifying, clown-like scarecrow — features a stitched face of burlap, a rope around his neck, a round belly under an open shirt and tattered jeans. He was created “to look like a terrifying mask that’s been rotting in the sun,” said Elizalde.
The team explained that the eerie Big Toe has crackled skin and is missing the nominal digit, while the Pale Lady has long hair and wide-apart eyes on an egg-like face.
“She doesn’t look evil, but there’s something unnerving about her,” said special makeup effects artist Mike Hill, who added that her sinewy, vasculated arms and rough hands on a soft, doughy body create an intentionally unsettling contrast.
“She’s almost funny and cute, but she’s completely evil,” added Del Toro. He joked that she’s his favorite character “because, first of all, it looks like me. That’s why I don’t shave — it’s just a mass of tissue!”
Though Del Toro described the horror film’s tone as one that also includes humor and heart, Elizalde left the audience with a frightening thought: “Hopefully they’ll stay in your minds forever and haunt your dreams.”
“Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” opens in theaters Aug. 9.