The Beautiful and the Monstrous Masculine: the Male Body and Horror in El espinazo del diablo (Guillermo del Toro 2011)


Davies A (2007) The Beautiful and the Monstrous Masculine: the Male Body and Horror in El espinazo del diablo (Guillermo del Toro 2011). Studies in Hispanic Cinemas, 3 (3), pp. 135-147.

The article considers the destruction of virile masculinity by the monstrous abject in Guillermo del Toro's El espinazo del diablo (2001). Throughout the film there is an undercurrent of obsession with male potency symbolised by the recurring motifs of the unexploded bomb and the liquor sold from the medicine jars that preserve deformed foetuses. Virility is more precisely figured as both beautiful and murderous through the character of Jacinto as played by actor Eduardo Noriega, drawing on the persona brought to the film by his previous roles. His beautiful masculinity is set in opposition to an embodiment of masculinity that is monstrous and abject, primarily through the ghost Santi and the feminine trail of blood constantly flowing from his head. The virile masculine may be loosely associated with the right-wing forces of the Spanish Civil War, while the monstrous is loosely associated with resistance to them, so that the eventual triumph of the monstrous undermines (if only briefly) the efforts of the right wing to posit masculinity as a political statement. Horror, however, is encapsulated in precisely the threat to beautiful virility as spectacle, as exemplified by Noriega's character: by presenting the male body as an object of admiration, potency and desire, the film feminises it and thus lays it open to the possibility of decay and abjection. Del Toro thus presents masculinity as unfixed, in inherent danger of collapsing in on itself and mutating into the monstrous abject. The male body comes to haunt itself, implying the ever present possibility of a return of the regressed.

Guillermo del Toro; Spanish cinema; Mexican cinema; horror; masculinity; the abject

Studies in Hispanic Cinemas: Volume 3, Issue 3

Publication date30/11/2007