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5 reviews, 65 user ratings

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Pan's Labyrinth
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by brianorndorf

"del Toro's robust imagination vs. his fluttery attention to story"
4 stars

Guillermo del Toro whips up another batch of potent gothic horror in “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Even if the story is a tad too schizophrenic for a digestible sit, the film is a visual wonder, providing an exquisite look at a dark carnival of monsters and murder. It’s a film not easily forgotten.

It’s effortless to point out the genius of Guillermo del Toro’s new political statement/gothic horror picture, “Pan’s Labyrinth,” but tricky to identify exactly why the film seems to be split into two pieces that refuse the company of each other.

“Labyrinth” is an immense post Spanish Civil War political allegory; a semi-sequel to del Toro’s vivid but stalled “Devil’s Backbone.” It broadens del Toro’s obsession with the horrors of the mind, presented here in the form of a 12 year-old girl named Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), caught between the love for her pregnant mother and the chilling violence of her new step-father, Fascist Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez), who is merciless in his hunt for rebels. To escape her pain, Ofelia runs to a nearby garden, protected by a Faun (Doug Jones), who offers the young girl three quests to help balance the forces inside the labyrinth he guards.

“Labyrinth” is a fairy tale for adults, one that runs red with splattery violence and blunt suffering. The director has made it his duty throughout his career to seek out any story that demands exquisite attention to violent detail, and “Labyrinth” could very well be considered his magnum opus; his first motion picture that gives itself completely over to fantastic heights of life and death, burying the viewer in the minutiae of traumatic escapism and purposed imagining. Even after fixated gore romps with “Hellboy” and “Blade II,” del Toro manages to top himself by pushing his snappy sense of humor aside, leading the story into a dark, foreboding place no one could have predicted.

Visually, this is del Toro at his most fearless, effortlessly shaping a lurid realm of magic for Ofelia, and a stark, cold-blooded fear factory for the Captain. The labyrinth sequences are like Jim Henson and Lewis Carroll’s love child on a truckload of acid; del Toro spares no drop of his imagination conjuring up mazes and monsters for Ofelia to meet and fear. The most striking is a devilish protector of a treasure with eyeballs on his hands and a frightening hunger for the soft flesh of babies. The beast is a fuel that will power nightmares for decades to come.

Vidal’s obsession with destroying the rebellion is just as horrific, but in real world, bullet-in-the-brain ways. Again, del Toro stages the violence unapologetically, making certain the audience comprehends the Captain is a monster, but whether of duty or internal rot is a question left to the viewer. Lopez burns through his moments like a foaming dog, relishing his opportunities to inflict pain, yet demanding his right to bring a new life into the world. The actor manages the unthinkable: in a cinematic offering complete with fairies, monsters, and potent vaginal symbolism, Lopez, working only with his flesh and blood, manages to steal the film away from a kaleidoscope of visual fantasia.

Where my mind and heart differ on the film is how it all ties together. I understand that del Toro is leaning toward a more interpretative experience by blurring the edges of Ofelia’s sanity and thickening the Fascism commentary, I only question why the two stories aren’t allowed a distinct meeting point; a place of respectful simplicity that binds the stories in an indisputable way to help better intend the goals of the picture. I could admire the look of the film until the cows come home, but never was I moved by the Ofelia’s sacrifices or Vidal’s punishment. The two never crash into each other, and the jolt back and forth between the parallel plots seems to do more harm than good to the pace and near-apocalyptic intention of the film.

The final sequences of the picture suggest a euphoria and release for the characters, but I wasn’t there in that emotional pitch with “Pan’s Labyrinth” in the way I could’ve been. It’s a very sizable dent on a motion picture cursed with an aim that feels too askew, too rusted from use to land the perfect shot.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14849&reviewer=404
originally posted: 12/29/06 01:50:24
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/18/18 Marinah Visually mesmerizing tale of Death to Imagination,slaughter ID: mind cnfrm/cntrl paramount. 5 stars
9/21/17 morris campbell good horror fantasy check it out 4 stars
1/30/16 Alexis H Cold reality and dangerous fantasy collide in the fight for freedom 4 stars
11/12/13 Vanessa Campos I loved this movie for the fantasy and reality it portrayed. 5 stars
8/12/11 jiropan best dark fantasy film of all time..... 5 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles OUTSTANDING 5 stars
9/26/10 KingNeutron Really disturbing in parts, but well made -- Note, Subtitled 4 stars
9/03/10 Simon Strange yet so fresh and intriguing the 1st time I saw it, 2nd viewing confirms its beauty 5 stars
6/05/10 User Name Del Toro magnificantly illuminates the grimness of reality and Olivia's fantasy. 5 stars
9/16/09 bored mom A fucking awesome psychological fantasy allegory set in fascist-era Spain 5 stars
6/15/09 MP Bartley A seriously impressive achievement. 5 stars
2/16/09 dolph G Spanish is the best language for the flim and one of the greats!! 5 stars
2/13/09 Raul Valdez Jr I dont give a sh!t what you all think but this movie needs to be in english 5 stars
2/29/08 Tammy Kennedy When i first got this movie i thought it was for kids, wow I was wrong. I liked it though 4 stars
2/09/08 R.W.Welch Creative stuff, tho a shade overdone at times. 4 stars
11/17/07 Brian Mckay "Bridge to Genocide-ia" is more like it - very dark and gritty film full of metaphors 4 stars
9/17/07 Axel A beautiful fantastical horrific sad movie.. BEAUTIFUL!! 5 stars
9/15/07 David Cohen Wouldn't call it a masterpiece, but I enjoyed it 4 stars
9/02/07 Kendra A good movie just a lil gory 4 stars
7/31/07 Shana Poorly written, especially the fantasy part which isn't really tied in well. Almost cheesy 2 stars
7/28/07 steven kelly Powerful, haunting, beautifully filmed; a masterpiece. 5 stars
7/11/07 Hello Stranger why would you rate a film based on how gory it is? idiots. this is a great take on fantasy 5 stars
7/06/07 AnnieG Can't understand what people love about this film ... it's lame fantasy and too violent 3 stars
7/02/07 William Goss A grand historical fable worth getting lost in. Just spectacular all-around. 5 stars
6/15/07 Mark Hambly Agree with all the good comments - Fantastic and mesmerising dark fantasy fable - Watch it! 5 stars
6/08/07 kalika Too gory, story line was under developed 2 stars
5/25/07 tony del Toro fulfills on the promise of Devil's Backbone; superior to Cronos 5 stars
5/25/07 Jiz Strong characters, great atmosphere, but a little too drawn-out. 4 stars
5/24/07 Tracey Chambers great movie. dark and very, creepy. 5 stars
5/21/07 Dark Enchantress one of the best films ever! 5 stars
5/21/07 action movie fan good special effects but story was much too lame 3 stars
5/16/07 Quigley Del Toro finally came through for me. Lives up to the title "masterpiece" in every way. 5 stars
4/13/07 Rayven Simply the best movie I have seen in a long long while-a masterpiece!! 5 stars
4/05/07 The Velcro Warlock One friggin' wierd film. Stays with you, but not necessarily in a good way. 2 stars
4/01/07 dtx120 Artsy, brutal, conflicting, and not nearly what I expected. One of the best of 06. 5 stars
3/13/07 Kerri Awesome film! 5 stars
3/12/07 guisada wow 5 stars
3/01/07 Anti-Xen Not bad at all, but lacking a certain something... 3 stars
2/28/07 malcolm creepy, captivating, with gorgeous set pieces 5 stars
2/27/07 Keystra Williams Got screwed out of the big prize on sunday! Boo! 5 stars
2/27/07 Jennifer Spry A beautiful dream 5 stars
2/20/07 Beau one of the best top ten movies i have ever seen in this decade, great acting 5 stars
2/18/07 dmitry Fantastic, makes "Children of Men" seem like a cartoon in comparison 5 stars
2/10/07 Jim Good, but not as good as Devil's Backbone; still better than 90% of Hollywood junk 4 stars
2/10/07 jcjs wonderful, just a masterpiece..has to be his best 5 stars
2/08/07 The chode Best movie of 2006, hands down. 5 stars
2/07/07 Dark Enchantress It was a great movie, but i thought there should of been more fantasy in it! 5 stars
2/07/07 toni amazing but with an underlining sadness 5 stars
2/03/07 The Talking Elbow Maybe not for everybody, it's sad but remarkable. 5 stars
1/29/07 Kate A STUNNING MASTERPIECE 5 stars
1/29/07 del Cranky and lee should both be shot in the genitals. 5 stars
1/28/07 TyrantisTerror Art in every positive sense of the word. 5 stars
1/28/07 Lisa Craven Loved it, very entertaining, kept me interested. 4 stars
1/28/07 Cranky Great when on crack, stupid illegal language which screwed it up! 1 stars
1/27/07 lee boring and belligerantly violet with no meaning behind its entirety 2 stars
1/25/07 Arlette Alice in Wonderland on crack. Great juxtaposition of two worlds. Loved the Dorothy "red sho 5 stars
1/25/07 Marty amazing movie. still can't believe that bitch ate that grape. 5 stars
1/22/07 Bitchflaps The feminist angle and the characters are underdeveloped, the allegory is overstated. 2 stars
1/21/07 Rob Loved it. Best film I've seen this year so far. 5 stars
1/20/07 Max I'm proud this Mexican film is touching hearts all over the world 5 stars
1/20/07 Ole Man Bourbon Very well done, entertaining throughout. 5 stars
1/13/07 hanabatake amazing, moving, horrifying. I can't get the images out of my mind. 5 stars
1/12/07 Deadly Assassin One of the best fantasy films ever...much better than that D& D crap !!!! 5 stars
1/09/07 kris Highly original, sad and brutal. An attack on fascism and Catholic Church. 5 stars
12/29/06 lee Best movie of the year!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
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  29-Dec-2006 (R)
  DVD: 15-May-2007



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