Pans Labyrinth is a fairytale for adults where fantasy and reality mix into a dark yet hopeful dream.

A young girl named Ofelia moves to a house in the countryside with her mother. The house is ruled by her stepfather, a ruthless army captain determined to crush a guerrilla uprising. With no one to play with, Ofelia ventures into the woods and finds an elaborate labyrinth guarded by a faun. The creature convinces her that she is a princess of an underground kingdom, but in order to return home she must complete three tasks, or else be a mortal forever.

The story is enchanting, the plot is a captivating blend of the violent and the fantastical, the characters are memorable, the practical effects are just amazing, and the ending is perfect.

Ofelia’s life doesn’t play out like a story of a predictable Disney princess, but as a true quest where she fails and learns. The film is a stunning contrast between her two worlds – a reality filled with the horrors of war, and an enchanting labyrinth that holds a promise. The two spill into and reflect each other. As war surrounds her daily life she escapes into a world not far from her own – filled with strange, creepy, scary creatures – even the faun is ambiguous. She uses the magic from her fantasy world to help her pregnant mom.

All the actors here are great as archetypal characters – the defiant maid, the noble doctor and the cruel army captain.The lead of course, steals the show.

The practical effects made believable creatures. They deliver surreal horror when done right and backed by a great story. Ofelia meets one of the most memorable movie screen monsters in history during one of her quests.

The movie ends with a twist on the happily ever after. Although the film is filled with stark images, you are left, for a moment heartbroken, and then hopeful.

Its a great allegory and an epic fairytale. When most of what we have nowadays as fantasy is a derivative, Pans labyrinth shows us something creative and wildly original.

My Rating:  10/10

Movie Art Poster by Peter Strain