Sommerleigh Pollonais – Horror Head Writer
For Day 12 of 31 Days of Horror we check out Pan’s Labyrinth (2006).
In the Falangist Spain of 1944, the bookish young stepdaughter of a sadistic army officer escapes into an eerie but captivating fantasy world.
I don’t know anything about Spanish history and had to look up what “Falangist” meant. A Falangist would be a member of one of two legal parties that existed during the tyrannical fascist regime of Spain, known as the Francoist period. They placed a strong emphasis on Catholic religious identity and believed that the state should have supreme authority over the nation. A lot to swallow I know, and to talk about such things is way out of my purview. What I do know is what it was like to be child, trying to deal with the adult world around you. A world that can be so overwhelming that it sometimes felt the safest place to be, was in your own imagination.
Ophelia (portrayed by Ivana Baquero) lives in a world beset by war (the aforementioned Spain, 1944). Her pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) takes her on a journey to meet and live with her new stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), and it doesn’t take very long for young Ophelia to ascertain her new father is a monster of a man. As her mother grows increasingly ill, Ophelia finds an old labyrinth on the property where she meets several magical creatures who become central to her story.
The film employs both CGI and animatronics and builds a world only the mind of one such as Guillermo del Toro could come up with. From the tree-like Faun that gives Ophelia her tasks so that she may once again become the Princess of the Underworld, to the Pale Man who devours children foolish enough to eat from his vast feast of delights, the fairy tale world here can be just as dangerous as the real world Ophelia lives in. Famed character actor and frequent Del Toro collaborator Doug Jones plays both of these fantastical creatures. Del Toro has stated Pan’s Labyrinth is the “spiritual sequel” to one of his earlier films, The Devil’s Backbone and the themes of young children having to deal with real-life wars, death and horror definitely carries through to Pan’s Labyrinth.
Del Toro (Hellboy, The Shape of Water) is one of my favourite directors. His ability to mesh fantasy, horror and reality into one beautiful and cohesive tale has always amazed and delighted me. What he does with Pan’s Labyrinth is give us a story within a story, a tale that can be interpreted in many different ways depending on the viewing audience. For me, this is a story of being true to oneself, no matter the consequences. Rebellion is the main theme at play: the last remnants of the rebels fighting against the fascist regime they’re under; the doctor brought in to take care of sickly Carmen disobeys a direct order from Capt. Vidal and puts a tortured man out of his misery, even at the risk of his own life; and young Ophelia rebels against the rules of her naïve mother, the dictatorship of her cruel stepfather, and even stands up against the Faun itself when told she has to draw blood from her newborn baby brother so she can pass her final test. Disobedience is not always a bad thing, especially when it means going against what you know in your heart is wrong.
As for whether the world of Pan’s Labyrinth was real, or just the imagination of a young child looking for something beautiful and filled with light in a world consumed by darkness? Well, I’ll leave that up to you to decide. However, any way you look at it, Pan’s Labyrinth proved horror and fantasy can combine to make something truly unforgettable.
Sommer’s Score: 8.5 out of 10
So what did you think of Pan’s Labyrinth? For part 11 of 31 Days of Horror and slasher Scream you can click here. And for more horror film reviews you can like and follow Redmangoreviews on Facebook here.
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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