Whether it’s horror, fairy tale, or a superhero movie, getting inside the mind of Guillermo del Toro is always a welcomed breaks from reality. Following the ghostly Crimson Peak, the filmmaker is returning to a more Pan’s Labyrinth-esque creature feature with The Shape of Water, though this latest film looks noticably less freaky than that 2006 favorite.

The first trailer for the film dropped this morning, teasing the newest creature to join del Toro’s filmography. Set during the Cold War era, Sally Hawkins plays Elisa, a mute janitor working at an experimental government laboratory where she discovers a mysterious creature kept in a water tank. Curious as ever, she begins to befriend the creature, played by none other than del Toro regular Doug Jones. Elisa plays him music and teaches him sign language, and seems to quickly fall for the fishy merman, but Michael Shannon’s government man ain’t happy about it. Playing pure villainy here (who could refuse Shannon as the baddie?), he asks Michael Stuhlbarg’s overzealous We-Must-Preserve-Beauty! type doctor to destroy it, more or less. Here’s the full synopsis:

From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, comes The Shape of Water - an other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1963. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of silence and isolation. Elisa’s life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Michael Stuhlbarg and Doug Jones.

Del Toro made headlines a while back when he announced the film received an R rating, but the filmmaker made a note on Twitter that despite that, his latest is not a horror movie. By the looks of it, I can only imagine the MPAA slapped it with that rating for some violence (remember how jarringly violent Pan’s is?) or some possible nudity. Either way, this one, like much of del Toro’s other films, may not be for the kids. But it certainly looks like a visual feast for the eye, and maybe a solid double feature with A Cure for Wellness, another movie where freaky things happen with water.

The Shape of Water, which also stars Octavia Spencer (hopefully she gets more to do than hang out as the best friend janitor) and Richard Jenkins, hits theaters December 8.

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