2. Pale Man (Pan’s Labyrinth)
Guillermo del Toro has made his mark with plenty of films featuring tragic, menacing creatures. We’ve already mentioned Mimic, but if his particular interpretation of horror movie creatures intrigues you, be sure to check out other films of his, including Cronos (1993) and Hellboy (2004).
Del Toro was already a well-established filmmaker by the time sixth feature film, Pan’s Labyrinth, was released in 2006. Yet, this movie was one that placed him on another level entirely, with its focus on both the effects of the Spanish Civil War and the fantasy world that consumes Ofelia, the young protagonist.
The young Ofelia travels with her mother, Carmen, to an enclave of pro-Franco soldiers. Carmen is the new wife of Captain Vidal, a government man who has been tasked with eliminating republican rebels in the country.
Ofelia is isolated and lonely, put off by the coldness of her new home and her menacing new stepfather. She soon begins to interact with strange, potentially imaginary figures, including a large faun that appears more goat-like than human. The faun gives her a series of tasks in order to acquire immortality (a subplot explains that Ofelia is perhaps the lost princess of an underworld kingdom).
For the second task, Ofelia must descend into a fantastic lair beneath her home to retrieve a dagger. Inside the lair is a table loaded with food. At its head sits a strange, pale creature without eyes. Creepy, sure, but the creature doesn’t make or react to Ofelia. She grabs the dagger and – though the faun strongly warned her not to take any food – eats a couple of grapes from the table.
The Pale Man then springs into action. It places eyes into the palms of its hands and, raising its palms to the eyeless face, begins to chase Ofelia. It’s a horrible, grotesque monster. The eyes in hands are bad enough, but the being is covered in pale, flabby skin. Murals on the walls of its lair also depict it eating live children.
Luckily, Ofelia escapes to face other horrors, but the Pale Man made a serious impression on the audience.