Everything I Need To Know In Life, I Learned Trapped In A Maze With A Satyr.
2006, MexicoGuillermo Del Toro
It may not seem true, but at one point in time it was possible to tell a fairy tale without having a lobster or a warthog sing a stupid song about the circle of life every ten minutes. In order to distract the kids from the lack of Nathan Lane belting out show tunes , story-tellers resorted to other tactics to keep children interested, namely killing people in horrific ways. And Pan's Labyrinth is a throwback to those halcyon days of witches in the oven, frozen matchstick girls, and Goldilocks gang raped by bears. Okay, so that last bit may only be part of the fairy tale when I tell it to my kids, but you do get the idea.
Pan's Labyrinth, on the other hand, harkens back to the good old days, when children learned their lessons by having the shit scared out of them and their lives threatened. Guillermo Del Toro understands that if you spare the rod, you spoil the child, or more accurately, if you don't show the child a man getting his cheek slit open from the inside by a paring knife, they grow up as panty-waisted homosexuals. And that's what this movie is about: telling a story about princesses and underworld kingdoms while showing an anti-government guerilla getting tortured with an awl and a blacksmith's hammer. That will teach the little fucks the meaning of obedience. Make a scene in a McDonald's parking lot because you didn't get the right Happy Meal? I'll have your fucking fingers for that, and then I'll feed them to the god-awful Pale Man in Pan's Labyrinth, who has eyeballs in his hands and eats babies.
In the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, Pan's Labyrinth isn't the decadent exercise in special effect wankery I had expected. Instead, it's actually a tragic tale of a young girl with a sick mother, a wicked army captain stepfather, and her overactive imagination. There's a faun, fairies, an enormous toad, and plenty of graphic violence, which helps separate the fantasy scenes from the reality ones. Or rather, the different types of violence distinguish the two worlds, with the graphic, realistic knife wounds and gunshots contrasting with the phantasmagorically baroque bloodshed of the fantasy sequences. It's enough to shock and interest adults and children alike, which is great, because it will help kids learn an important lesson, which is that if you speak Spanish, something will try to eat you. It's a great lesson that helps keep Mexicans out of my neighborhood, but frankly, since this film is so well constructed and appealing, it's a shame it doesn't teach children some other important life lessons.
1) Don't touch my action figures. I know they look like fun, especially the shelf dedicated to the various incarnations of Bruce Campbell, but there are small pieces that you might choke on. And believe me, if you fuck up my diorama of Jason giving it to Elvira up the pooper with the shaft of an axe, you will choke on them.
2) Yes, children like comic books. And yes, I like comic books. But no, I do not like children, and if the children I don't like like my comic books, they will find out what happens to people who do not respect strict alpha-numeric classification systems. And is that Nutella on my mint-condition copy of Swamp Thing #18 It is? Charming. Don't mix it with the blood you're about to lose, and I'll try not to get my semen on it when I'm done with you.
3) I know children are curious. But curiosity killed the cat, and throttled the little boy who snuck into my basement and discovered what I do to little girls.
The moral of the last story is that nosiness leads to nothing but trouble, both for the child, and for the adult who's trying to figure out how to get arm bones through the garbage disposa chutel. And that's the kind of fairy tale that, like Pan's Labyrinth, has something for both kids and adults.
Underage? Read a PG-13 review at The Comic Book Bin. Then come over to my house and let me watch you touch yourself. Girls and effeminate boys only need apply.