13 Halloween movies for people who don’t like horror

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Doug Jones in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006), image courtesy of Warner Bros.

5. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

When people think of fairy tales, “rated-R with gruesome brutality” isn’t usually what comes to mind. Yet, Disney’s recent offerings all pale in comparison to Pan’s Labyrinth, Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro’s masterwork. Set in Spain 1944, under the fascist regime of Francisco Franco, it tells the story of Ofelia, a girl whose mother recently married Captain Vidal, a military leader charged with vanquishing rebels. She attempts to find refuge from the misery around her by venturing into a maze inhabited by fantastical (possibly imaginary) creatures, including a faun that assigns her three tasks to complete to fulfill her destiny as a reincarnated princess.

From the get-go, Pan’s Labyrinth subverts expectations, replacing the usual evil stepmother with an evil stepfather who personifies the tyranny of Francoist rule and patriarchal authority. There is no Prince Charming here, just women fighting to survive. The darkness, which permeates the mythical world as well as the real one, might have been overwhelming if not for the curiosity and passion that del Toro displays in each frame. Like the bathhouse in Spirited Away, Ofelia’s maze is a universe onto itself, elaborate and unruly, and the creatures look primal and organic, merging with their surroundings like ivy on an abandoned mansion. You could get lost in the magic.

Similar movies: La Belle et la Bête (1946), Bridge to Terabithia (2005)