untitled.jpgI am somewhat in awe of the genre of films which can only be called Fairy Tales For Grown-Ups. The City Of Lost Children is one of my favourite films, and is clearly a fairy tale which cannot be seen by anyone under fifteen. And so too (up to a point) is Pan’s Labyrinth, which whilst not as awesome as the the title might suggest (see my version to the right) is still a really well made story of youthful innocence contrasted with the horrors of Yawn, I mean WAR. Indeed part of its problem is that it is too well made .The lines between the fantasy and real world are so clearly delineated that when they eventually collide the effect is diminished by sense that we’ve been here before.

Which is surprising because we haven’t really been here that OFTEN in film before. Night Of The Hunter maybe. Spirit Of The Beehive perhaps. Recently: Tideland – Which was messier and therefore perhaps worked better (if this is partially a tale of madness – then why to the mad always have such good special effect budgets. Jeliza-Rose in Tideland made do with ventriloquism and Barbie heads). Probably closest in feel, though not in nastiness, is Curse Of The Cat People. Approximating fairy-tale with dreamlike with madness with evil is sometimes a stretch, and one that Del Toro’s special effects almost hinder him with. The moments of fantasy horror, and they are here, sit uncomfortably with the equally well shot real horrors. I have not seen an audience squirm this much for years: and that is not from the eyeball less creature, just the bad guy.

Which brings us back to Peter Pan, and to a lesser extent David Bowie. The “real” story in Pan’s Labyrinth is ALSO straight out of a fairy tale, or more likely the classic Dickensian twofer when the parent marries the evilest step-parent in history and then ups and dies on their previously happy beloved child. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED IN REAL LIFE. But as Pan has Hook, and Bowie goblins over his Labyrinth: so Sergio Lopez broods over this picture as the evilest fascist bully boy seen on screen for years. A tremendous villain who you are almost pulling for just because he is so awesomely cruel. Next to him the Faun cannot compete.

The Faun by the way. Not Pan. Now Pan might be a Faun. But Pan is also considered in a different way by English speaking audiences to what one assumes is the generic Spanish legend of Faun’s (not to mention the Judeo-Christian Devil who nicked his style). I wonder if non-Spanish audiences lose a bit of backstory, a bit of folk-lore filling in? But then that is a different maze of questions.