Ofelia's Bedtime Stories
Historians claim that classic fairytales that have been passed down to us have been sanitized and white-washed with the passing centuries, that most were originally parables laden with darker, far more sinister portents than can be imagined. Harboring relics from the olden days when children were ruled by fear: malicious step-parents with sinister hidden personalities; disobedient children who get baked into pies; winged hideous creatures who demand near impossible tasks of a hero.
Obviously the Spaniards - who incidentally brought us the Inquisition - have seen fit to tease us with some of those grim fairy tales.
Despite Charming Calvin's reluctance to view horror flicks, he seemed eager enough to step into the labyrinth. Pan's Labyrinth certainly isn't some sweet, delightful fantasy told to children at bedtime, resembling something closer to a horrific nightmare told to scare the bejeezus out of children who dare stray from the path drawn for them. Think a chilling, far more wicked Wonderland with the innocent Alice's role being taken by the far more intrepid, stalwart Ofelia who tries to find her way through a bewildering time in her life - incidentally set against the background of Generalissimo Franco's Spain torn apart by bloody civil war.
Life isn't all that beautiful then - there's a pervading sense of melancholy throughout - and the other nighttime creatures that populate her imagination don't help much, such as the supposed guide through the maze, the forgotten White Rabbit, who metamorphoses instead into a monstrous ghoulish demonic creature equipped with horrific horns and hoofs.
Surreal child-like fantasy it may be but the director leaves nothing white-washed showing us the savage brutality of the real world - that Ofelia in her childlike innocence tries her best to escape. Heads do roll here and they remain there, decapitated, bloodied and dead-eyed.
Throughout the sombre, dimly lit drama, there are times when you feel chills prickling up your spine - especially when creepy crawling critters make an unseemly appearance. Elves that come in the form of the hunky Orlando Bloom are fine by me but those that flitter about like little insects always make my flyswatter hand itch. More so when they resemble Guillermo del Toro's twisted mutant fairies.
Yet even as the unbelievable fantasy trails to an end, nothing quite prepares you for the shocking, almost disturbing conclusion.
Yes. Unless your mama's the poisoned-apple peddling sort, this is not your mama's bedtime stories.