The worst monsters in your most terrifying dreams probably would run and hide from the creatures Guillermo del Toro puts on a movie screen.
Del Toro, creator of the visionary fairy tale "Pan's Labyrinth," offers a universe of otherworldly creations in "Hellboy II: The Golden Army," the follow-up to his 2004 adventure about a superhero who's a demon from below.
Among the denizens of the "Hellboy" sequel are an Angel of Death whose black wings are pocked with eyeballs, tiny tooth fairies that burrow savagely through human flesh to munch on the bones within, and a shopkeeper with a cathedral-shaped head. The movie includes a visit to a troll market below Manhattan that is wall-to-wall with creatures rivaling the "Star Wars" cantina sequence for inventiveness.
Del Toro has lived with such beasts in his head since his boyhood in Mexico.
"Undeniably, I am in love with monsters, the way Fellini was in love with a particular type of human," del Toro told The Associated Press, recounting how the Italian filmmaker would wander the streets of Rome in search of the right faces to put on screen.
"The same plasticity is searched for by me in the monster realm. There is a great word, which is teratology, the study of monsters. I have a teratological fascination with these creatures. The inventory of them grows and grows with every movie."
In his 1993 debut "Cronos," del Toro created a unique type of vampire. In his first Hollywood feature, "Mimic," it was giant insects with chameleonlike abilities to adapt. He dealt with ghosts in the mesmerizing "The Devil's Backbone."
"Pan's Labyrinth," which won three Academy Awards for 2006 including the makeup prize, took del Toro's fascination with monsters to a new level. The story of a girl co-existing in a frightening fantasy world and the equally harrowing real world just after the Spanish Civil War, the film presented a forest faun that strikingly blended characteristics of man and beast and a child-eating creature with horridly loose folds of skin, plus eyeballs in the palms of its hands.
"‘Pan's Labyrinth' was a perfect entity from beginning to end and a pure poem. It's something that no one else could have made," said Perlman, who also co-starred in del Toro's "Cronos" and "Blade II."
The inventory of del Toro's creatures will continue to grow with "The Hobbit," the two-part big-screen prelude to "The Lord of the Rings" that del Toro is directing and co-writing.
Del Toro obsesses on mannerisms of his creatures to make them seem more real, no matter how fantastical their appearance, said Doug Jones, who played the title role as the faun and the child-devouring Pale Man in "Pan's Labyrinth," along with Hellboy's fish-faced ally Abe Sapien and two other creatures in "Hellboy II."
For Pan, del Toro told Jones to absorb some of the body language of barn animals when they try to flick a fly off their hindquarters. For the Pale Man, who chases the young hero after she awakens him from an ageless slumber, del Toro asked for herky-jerky, zombielike movements rather than the disjointed gallop Jones initially tried.
"I redirected my thought process into, oh, of course, he's been asleep for who knows how long, and he's got this loose skin hanging off him, so he must have been rotund and full of children as food before," Jones said. "And now who knows how long he's been sitting there and losing himself, so maybe he's a little weakened. He could go at a slow, creepy-crawly, crickety pace after just waking up.
"But he does it with confidence, because his children get trapped in there. Soon enough, they'll tire, and soon enough, he'll catch them."
The result of del Toro's tinkering was a chase sequence that left audiences gasping. Likewise, Jones gets to inhabit the body of another terrifying beast in "Hellboy II," the dazzling Angel of Death.
"The eyes in the wings of that creature were so frightening," said Selma Blair, who co-stars as Hellboy's girlfriend, a woman who can control fire. "I barely looked at the face of the Angel of Death. I couldn't stop looking at the eyes on the wings."
While del Toro uses computer animation for some creatures, including his swarm of tooth fairies and a giant plantlike monster, most of the life-size beasts were built by effects wizards as real costumes for human actors.
"Within possibility, I wanted to make a handmade film that felt crafted rather than churned out by a machine," del Toro said.
So what monsters scare del Toro the most?
"They're all politicians," del Toro joked. "Other than that, I'm deathly afraid of spiders."
His favorite movie monsters are the creature from James Whale's "Frankenstein" and "The Bride of Frankenstein," the Gillman from "The Creature From the Black Lagoon" and the demon Chernabog from the "Night on Bald Mountain" segment of "Fantasia."
Del Toro includes a nod to Whale's creation in "Hellboy II," showing a snippet from "The Bride of Frankenstein" in which Boris Karloff's monster states that he and his prospective mate should not be allowed to continue living.
"It's as good as any other immortal line in cinema. ... ‘We belong dead.' The fact that the guy that is saying that is the monster and the fact that he is not stating the fate of the others but his own, it's a protean moment for the creature, because he is transforming into the most human of all the characters in the film.
"That is essentially what I tried to do with all the monsters in the movie. I tried to make them superhuman types. They represent the perhaps darker, the perhaps less-pleasant parts of our souls, but magnified times 10."
It's critical to keep monsters alive for what they represent in a mundane world of shopping malls, traffic jams and monthly mortgages, del Toro said.
"I have dedicated my entire life to the love and study of monsters," del Toro said. "I really love that they symbolize something larger in our life. The moment we stop dreaming about angels and demons and monsters is the day we stop dreaming about things that are larger than us, and we become smaller."