Don't forget to join in on the month long celebration of horror with #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM
For this second #ScaryMovieMonthAtDCM, I tried to go in with a plan. Last year, the month was a free for all. I had random articles and reviews popping up all over the place. There was no order. Now, 17 days into the month, I've noticed that I haven't really been following any sort of plan. In fact, I'm meant to have reviewed 7 horror remakes by now, yet I've reviewed 2. So when I sat down to watch this film and I realised it wasn't necessarily a horror, but more of a fantasy, I thought to myself, 'fuck it. I'm doing this anyway.' So here you have it. My review for Pan's Labyrinth, just in time for my Crimson Peak review tonight.
Pan's Labyrinth is set in Spain in 1944 and follows the story of a young girl named Ofelia (Ivana Basquero). Her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) has married the captain of an army and so the two of them travel to go and live with him, wanting to deliver the baby in his presence. One night, Ofelia is met by a fairy, and it's this fairy who leads her to a faun (Doug Jones). The faun explains to Ofelia that she is a reincarnated princess, her father waiting for her in the underworld, and to be reunited with the king she must follow through with a series of tasks, proving herself to be the princess after all. It sounds like a children's tale, but Pan's Labyrinth is far from it.
Director Guillermo del Toro is quite the visionary, and he doesn't need me to tell him that. Everybody knows it. When you look at films such as Pan's Labyrinth or the Hellboy franchise or even Pacific Rim, the one thing they all have in common (aside from mythical creatures) is their stunning visuals. He has a wonderful taste for colour, the corrections really adding to the scene, and his cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. The film is a visual treat. There's always something on screen that draws you into his fantasy world.
From faun's to fairies to exploding toads, Pan's Labyrinth is full of weird and wonderful creatures, but their presence isn't overstayed, balancing out with the grimness of the war scenes. It's a film of many themes and multiple stories. On the one hand, we have the story of the war breaking out, and these sequences are full of despair, torture and disturbing imagery, showcasing the war as it really was. It's dark and it's bleak, and the hopefulness of the fairy tale doesn't take away from this at all. In fact, it improves it, providing us with some joy before bringing us back into the darkness. The two work hand in hand with each other and result in a wonderful movie.
The war is entertaining, but it's these fantasy scenes that really drew me in. They're fast and exciting, and you're never really sure what to expect. It's colourful and has an impending sense of doom. The opening shot of this movie finds our protagonist lying dead on the floor, so you know she's not entirely safe. The war sequences may drag, but the fantasy ones certainly do not. A stand out moment involves Ofelia coming face to face with the pale man, a creature whose eyes are located in its hands. It's just so bizarre and intriguing and it's one of the best sequences in the whole film.
Despite some clunky dialogue here and there, Pan's Labyrinth is a real treat. It's violent, it's magical and it made me feel all kinds of emotion. It goes down a path you will not predict, and the finale is certainly something. It had me hooked, and when we get to the eventual ending it took a turn I wasn't expecting. It's not necessarily a twist, but it doesn't end how you expect it to. In fact, it defied my expectations, and I really enjoyed myself. Del Toro has done a good job at bringing you into this narratively flawed, but quite whimsical world.
To sum up, Pan's Labyrinth is an inventive and original fairy tale that perfectly balances between the bleakness of the war and the hopefulness of the fantasy. It's creative, whimsical and unlike anything you've ever seen, even with its narrative flaws.
3 1/2 Stars