When talking about genres due for a revival, the musical and western genres tend to draw all of the attention, when there’s one genre that has been long underserved in this regard: The classic film genre of hot-merman-sex.
I believe Cecil B. DeMille said it best when he said, “Hot merman sex is truly that most sacred of genres, the pinnacle of filmmaking mastery.” Of course, he was describing his classic 1925 silent film, SEX WITH A MERMAN. a noteworthy landmark in a long and storied career, and then it was only the Silver Age of hot merman sex movies, with the Gold Age yet to come.
By 1973, when Stanley Kubrick made the hot-merman-sex film, WATER BETWEEN OUR EYES, a three-hour epic featuring the world’s first explicit merman sex scene, the genre was well on the decline.
But lo! Guillermo del Toro, that modern master of hot-merman-sex filmmaking, is here to revive the hot-merman-sex genre with the latest, and perhaps greatest, entry in the history of this niche genre. With frequent collaborator Doug Jones (the boogeyman from PAN’S LABYRINTH, who debuted his hot merman character for del Toro’s HELLBOY films). Though his character in the HELLBOY series received a notable romantic ark, del Toro has really racheted up the interest in hot merman sex. THE SHAPE OF WATER is a gorgeous and lovely film, featuring an entirely memorable lead performance by the great Sally Hawkins, undoubtedly deserving of an Oscar nomination at the very least (I won’t spoil it but this is the rare performance that demands a lot of an actress with a high bar for error, and Hawkins nails it).
Alongside Hawkins is a cast of strong performances, including national treasure Richard Jenkins, the sneering and villainous Michael Shannon (and his bug eyes, of course), Octavia Spencer, in a thankless but note-perfect performance, with perfect comic timing, and the effortful, delightful performance of Michael Stuhlbarg.
Alexandre Desplat’s score is loving and finely attuned to every moment of Guillermo del Toro’s fancy, every moment of his tension. It’s a stylized score to match del Toro’s heavily stylized film.
Guillermo del Toro is cinema’s preeminent fabulist, and nobody but him could pull off such a strong entry in the hot-merman-sex genre, one that feels so loving and attuned to its audience and its characters, to a sense of whimsy. Some have said this is del Toro’s finest film since PAN’S LABYRINTH. It’s not a claim I feel I could argue against.
What a delight. If THE SHAPE OF WATER can revive the hot-merman-sex genre, one can only imagine what genre Guillermo del Toro will try to revive next.