#332 -- Pan's Labyrinth (2006)

Director: Guillermo del Toro
Rating: 5 / 5

Once again, I'm caught reviewing a movie that's not technically horror. IMDB classifies it as drama/fantasy/war. But I really don't give a shit what anyone else calls it. There are elements at work here that just scream horror to me. Besides, it's one of my favorite movies, and I'll review it if I want to, dammit.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, the princess of the Underworld escaped into the human realm. Having been in the dark for so long, the sun blinded her and made her forget who she was. Devastated, her father had portals erected all around the world, awaiting her return. He was certain that she would return one day; perhaps in a different form, in a different time. But she would return, and he would be ready to embrace her.

In Spain, in the 1940s, during war-time, a young girl named Ofelia moved to the countryside with her mother. They lived with Ofelia's new stepfather, Captain Vidal, an evil and malicious army captain. Her mother was with child and very sick, though Captain Vidal didn't care about her at all. All he cared about was having a son that would carry on his name (which didn't work for him). Vidal wasn't only cruel to his enemies; he was cruel to everyone he came in contact with, unless they completely obeyed him without question. Even then, they could never be sure that he wouldn't turn on them. With her mother being ill, and herself being surrounded by death and violence, it's no surprise that Ofelia longed for an escape. A fairy-like creature led her to a labyrinth out in the woods, where she met the Faun. The Faun told her that she was the long-lost princess of the Underworld, and that her father was awaiting her return. Before she could return to her throne, however, she would have to complete a set of tasks to prove that her soul hadn't turned mortal. The Faun gave her a magical book that would explain each of her tasks, and these tasks had to be completed by the full moon.

Pale Man
Ofelia's tasks led her on an incredible adventure, and she met some very interesting creatures. There was a giant toad living in the trunk of a massive tree; the fairy-like creatures I mentioned earlier, which were able to shapeshift and sometimes resembled stick-bugs. There were two creatures that out-shined all the rest. First, a creature called Pale Man, who reminded me of Lord Voldemort, with his flat snake-like nose. His eyes weren't in his head, though; they were in his hands. His body was disgusting, yet somehow compelling (he looked like a naked old man, thankfully not anatomically correct), and he was genuinely creepy as fuck. Then there's the Faun, who was an absolute masterpiece. He's based on the Pan of Greek mythology, which is obvious by the title. Pan was a goat/human hybrid in those mythologies, and that was taken to another level completely here. Visually, Pan's Labyrinth is one-hundred-percent stunning and beautiful. The story was incredible, and I liked how it stayed true to mythology while creating something completely different (like how Ofelia was not supposed to eat anything when she entered the lair of Pale Man, as with Persephone when she first entered the Underworld). The conflicting emotions of child-like wonder, fear, hatred, and love definitely made for a wild ride.

The Faun

To me, Pan's Labyrinth is a perfect movie. It has everything that a good movie should have: wonderful characters, beautiful cinematography, uniquely compelling and spooky creatures; suspense, and scenes that will make you genuinely worry about the characters you've come to love. It is a very dark fairy tale that is both beautiful and frightening.

Fun fact: Some of you might already know this, but I certainly did it. Doug Jones, who played both The Faun and Pale Man, also played Abe in the Hellboy series. I think this guy has a knack for portraying fantastical and awesome creatures.

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