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Del Toro’s passionate fan base may take umbrage at this post’s heading, but Pan’s Labyrinth certainly pushed the heretofore comic book/horror auteur into the critical spotlight. Labyrinth won three Oscars, was nominated for three more, and was actually upset at the Academy Awards when it failed to garnish Best Foreign Language Film (The Lives of Others walked away with that one instead.)

Creeping into the realm of the political, Pan’s Labyrinth brilliantly examines what appears on its surface to be a very simple question: what is horror? Here, the creatures and insects that frighten young Ofelia (Ivana Boquero) in the night become her allies, and also give way to the very real terror of her Fascist stepfather, Captain Vidal (Sergei López), a vile and vicious soldier who seems to enjoy tormenting both his enemies and his own family. So when you wonder to yourself about vampires and ogres and other beasts of the imagination, stop and remind yourself that Spain’s brutal Fascists actually won that war… and remained in power over three decades after this story took place. Ask yourself: how many Ofelia’s (and others) were hurt in those awful years? Makes the creatures of imagination seem a bit less menacing, doesn’t it?

In it’s examination of childhood fears and responsibilities, the film reminds me very much of Charles Laughton’s Night of the Hunter, albeit with a bunch of awesome special effects.

Pan’s Labyrinth screens Monday, July 29 and Tuesday, July 30 at 7:00 and 9:15pm. Advance tickets are available.

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