Spain, 1944, during the Spanish Revolution. Young girl Ofelia’s (Ivana Baquero) pregnant mother Carmen (Ariadna Gil) has just married the leader of the effort to suppress the resistance, Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Ofelia, obsessed with fantasy stories, finds herself in a real-life fairy tale when a faun (Doug Jones), recognizing her as the reincarnation of the king of the underworld’s daughter, gives her three tasks to complete before the full moon so she can reclaim her kingdom.
My sister Leslie, an avid horror fan, refused to watch the movie for years, thinking it was a children’s movie. (My response: who cares, it’s Guillermo del Toro!) I set her straight and made her watch it. Though the main character is a child, and the structure and plot of the film borrows heavily from mythology and fairy tales, I would take caution advising parents to watch it with their children. It’s rated R, and fairly violent. Though many of the brutalities take place off-screen, like a man getting his gangrenous leg cut off with no anesthetic, just the fact these things are implied is still disturbing. There are still plenty of gory on-screen scenes, like when Vidal bashes in a man’s face with a bottle, as well as a scene when he has to sew up a gash in his own face with a needle and thread. Besides the violence, there are some scary images, for example Ofelia’s encounter with the Pale Man (also Doug Jones): there are portraits of the creature eating babies throughout the room, and, spurred by Ofelia eating grapes (though she was warned not to), it chases her (after chomping the heads off of two fairies). The whole scene is very scary and intense:
On the other hand, older children may get a kick out of it. While it’s never sappy, there is a wondrous element. There are also sweet moments, like when Ofelia hugs the faun. The visual effects are amazing, my favorite being the faun, who appears to be a combination of makeup and CGI. It’s also compelling, moving, and masterfully told. I saw it first in the theatre, and I left feeling so energized I wanted to jump up and down. Check it out if you like a little blood with your fantasy.