First clip from del Toro’s ‘The Shape of Water’ teases a shocking encounter

Guillermo del Toro’s upcoming dark fantasy The Shape of Water is already earning high praise from critics after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, and now Fox Searchlight Pictures has released the first clip from the highly anticipated film.

Directed and co-written by del Toro, The Shape of Water follows a lonely woman whose life is forever changed when she encounters a mysterious creature at the top-secret government facility where she works. The clip features Academy Award nominee Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine) as Elisa, the mute woman at the heart of the story, as well as fellow Academy Award nominee Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road, 99 Homes) as the government agent supervising the laboratory, and Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer (The Help) as Elisa’s friend and co-worker, Zelda.

The Shape of Water is set in Cold War era America during the early 1960s, and veteran del Toro collaborator Doug Jones portrays the aquatic, merman-like creature imprisoned by the government who develops a relationship with Elisa. Jones previously portrayed — both on camera and via motion-capture performance — creatures in Crimson PeakPan’s LabyrinthHellboy, and various other films directed by del Toro.

The three aforementioned Academy Award nominees and winners aren’t the cast members with hefty awards cred in The Shape of Water, as they’re joined by Academy Award nominee and Primetime Emmy Award winner Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, Olive Kitteridge) and Golden Globe nominee Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, Steve Jobs) in supporting roles.

The film’s worldwide premiere at the prestigious Venice festival this week has it off to a fantastic start, too. Although it’s still three months away from hitting North American theaters in wide release, the film currently has a 100 percent positive “Fresh” rating on professional and public review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 16 reviews.

Co-written with Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones, Divergent), The Shape of Water is the project del Toro reportedly chose to direct instead of the next year’s Pacific Rim Uprising, the sequel to his 2013 giant-robot adventure Pacific Rim.

The Shape of Water is scheduled to have its wide release in U.S. theaters December 8.