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Pan’s Labyrinth/El Laberinto del Fauno

8/10

Stars: Sergi Lopez, Maribel Verdu, Ivana Baquero, Alex Angulo, Doug Jones

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Having established himself internationally with his ingenious 1993 horror movie Cronos, Mexican-born del Toro then blew his art film street cred by ‘going Hollywood’ with commercial movies like Mimic and Hellboy. Now, with this extraordinary blend of fairy-tale shocker and melodrama, he triumphantly renews his intellectual appeal – after all, Pan’s Labyrinth is subtitled – as well as appealing to audiences who like their blood chilled and their spines tingled.

The setting is 1944 Spain where, in the vividly realized fantasy element, a young girl (sensitively played by Baquero) ends up in a strange underground maze where a faun tells her “You must complete three tasks before the moon is full”. Her bizarre odyssey, which owes much to Grimm and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, plays in parallel with the saga of her sadistic stepfather, a captain in Franco’s army, battling a guerilla group in a narrative strand whose violence and polemic are uncompromising and painfully realistic, leading to the two stories strands meeting in a grim climax.

All the acting is excellent and despite some muddy cinematography, Pan’s Labyrinth succeeds on most levels: del Toro superbly creates both a creepily convincing fantastic universe and an-all-too-credible real-life world. Both are the stuff of nightmares.

Alan Frank

Spain/Mexico/USA 2006. UK Distributor: Optimum Releasing. Colour.
119 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 25 Nov 2006