Pan's Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno)
Plotline: The storyline intertwines the grim reality of a circa-1940s fascist Spain with the ethereal and creepy disreality of a labyrinth hidden in a forest and inhabited by a faun. A young girl is sent with her mother to move in with her new stepfather who is a brutal evil captain in the Spanish army. When she wanders off one night, following the trail of a strange bug, she finds herself facing a creepy faun who tells her that she is a princess reborn, and that if she wants to find eternal life, all she needs to do is complete three tasks and she will live forever as royalty.
Scariness factor: This movie is creepy and delightful. It is like re-experiencing the frightfulness of being a child huddled under covers in the dark, trapped by one's own imagination. The characters are also very much like the imaginings of children as well--horrific and yet terrifyingly wonderful.
Gross-Out Factor: I was really quite surprised at how violent a handful of scenes in the movie are. The most violent of them all is a scene in which the evil Captain beats someone's nose back into their face, killing them. Seriously brutal stuff.
Complaints: Nada nada limonada.
High Points: Seriously, there are so many good things to say about this movie. It is seriously one of the more delightfully creepy and weirdly childlike imaginings I've ever seen transferred to the screen. The characters are truly something that comes straight from childhood nightmares. They are wonderful and yet horribly horribly terrifying. And yet, what I really adored about the movie was that the little girl who is the main character in the movie never seems to even bat an eyelash at their weirdness. She in particular is a fantastic little actress. And all the other acting in the movie is wonderful as well. Visually, the movie is stunning--swirls of shadow and light are played with in breathtaking ways. The strange characters that inhabit the movie are creepy and awesomely imaginative--I just wanted to keep staring at them and never stop. The movie is very smart, intertwining historical fiction of post-Civil War Spain, with ethereal fairy-tales of a young girl. Reality and disreality clash in terrifying ways, leaving you wondering which is scarier--the man with eyes in his hands, or the Captain himself. And that is another fantastic aspect of this movie--it is creepy and horrifying on many different levels--the strange characters that inhabit the fairy-tale part of the movie are fierce and spooky, but the Captain and the reality of his interaction with rebel troops is just as terrifying. And the ending is perfect. Seriously seriously perfect. I actually teared up.
Overall: Rent it. It's like nothing you've ever seen. Don't expect jump-in-your-seat nightmarish adventures of Freddy Kreuger. Expect something WAY more creepy and delightful, like stepping back into your childhood nightmares.