Dave's Rating:

5.0

… do not take kids to this movie …

Who's in It: Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Ariadna Gil

The Basics: First, if you've seen the trailer for this movie, then you still have no idea what you're in for. They're selling it as pure gothic fantasy. And it's much different than the one you've been led to buy a ticket for. Here's what really happens: In 1944 Spain, a tormented child, trying her best to save her mother and unborn sibling from the clutches of an evil captain in Francisco Franco's newly installed Fascist regime, realizes that the only way through the brutality of the real world is to submit to the rules of a demanding horned creature from the parallel fantasy world. She has to complete three impossible tasks to satisfy the creature and outsmart the bad guys, or else …

What's the Deal? Do not, I repeat, do not take kids to this movie unless you're somehow convinced of their innate worldliness, knowledge of the Spanish Civil War and its dour aftermath and ability to withstand nightmare-inducing horror. Because more than anything, this is a frightening, brutal adult fairy tale that really takes its cues from old-school fairy tales in which something evil never fails to befall hapless innocents. It's violent, creepy and unlike anything you've seen in a while. It's also insanely imaginative and beautiful. An awesome movie, but not for little kids. At all.

Hey, Fans of French Movies (Even Though This One Is Spanish): Here's where you've seen the mean captain (López) before he was the evil stalker in With a Friend Like Harry and one half of the adulterous couple in An Affair of Love. So now you know.

Hey, Fans of Monsters: You're going to flip for horned Pan, the giant slimy toad-like thing, the wiggling root that's kind of like a deformed baby, the scary eyeballs-in-hands creature and every other gross thing that slinks across the screen.

And Another Thing: I want to send writer/director Guillermo Del Toro a thank-you note for not being afraid to go down the darkest, most heartbreaking path toward his movie's ending. Anyone have his address? I might send some chocolates, too.

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