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  • Acceptable Political Targets: Fascists/Francoists. Justified by the number of atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War and afterwards.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The Faun is subject to this, as it is left deliberately ambiguous on how trustworthy he actually is.
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Admittedly, Captain Vidal is defeated unsatisfyingly easily. You'd think he'd put up more of a fight instead of going down via Boom, Headshot!. A case could be made that this is an Invoked Trope to indicate that authoritarians, for all their bluster, don't actually possess the superhuman strength that they project. Captain Vidal might be the most overtly villainous character in the film, but a single headshot wastes him the way it would any other human character.
  • Award Snub:
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    • Subverted. The film did quite well come Oscar time, winning for Art Direction, Cinematography and Makeup. However, it ended losing Foreign Language Film in an upset to The Lives of Others. Not the worst case of this, given how the latter film is also quite great.
    • The film also failed to earn a Best Picture nomination, despite appearing on more Top 10 lists than any of the actual nominees that year aside from The Queen and The Departed.
  • Broken Base: It's split between whether the fantasy elements were real or just Ofelia's imagination. Word of God has confirmed it's the former, and there are several moments that would be very coincidental if the magic wasn't real. But there are others who like to interpret the entire story as being a dying Ofelia retroactively turning her story into a Dying Dream thanks to the Book-Ends format. It largely depends on the viewer's attitude towards the Fantasy Ghetto.
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  • Catharsis Factor: Captain Vidal's death. As he survives the brutal slashing from Mercedes, he essentially gets killed twice. For an added Kick the Son of a Bitch, Mercedes tells him that his son won't ever know his name.
  • Complete Monster: Captain Vidal is far more terrifying than the fantastical monsters in the same work. Vidal first shows his nastiness when two poachers, a father and son, are brought to him in the dead of night, his men suspecting them of being rebels against the regime. He beats the younger man's face in with a bottle simply for defending his father against Vidal's accusations before shooting them both with a vague air of boredom and pleasure. When the men are proven not to be rebels, Vidal shows no remorse, only belittling his men to be more careful next time. At one point, Vidal captures a rebel with a horrible stutter and cheerfully shows the man his torture instruments before offering to let him go if he can clearly count to three. He fails. Vidal is married to the young heroine's mother solely so she'll bear him an heir, and shows no concern over the possible death of his wife in childbirth. When the doctor attending her gives the aforementioned stuttering torture victim a mercy kill, Vidal coldly guns him down. At the film's end, Vidal's stepdaughter Ofelia tries to rescue her baby brother, but Vidal catches her and promptly shoots her fatally. It's no accident that Vidal's place at the head of the table in the dinner scene parallels that of the Pale Man; each qualifies as a Monstrous Humanoid in his own way, one literal, one figurative.
  • Death of the Author:
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    • Despite del Toro's own insistence that the magic is real, some viewers hold that the film is better assuming Ofelia is simply delusional, and merely using the Faun and the fairies as a coping mechanism for her own traumas.
    • On the flip side, del Toro considers the film a metaphor for the Spanish Civil War, and many people ran with it, especially in Spain. Interpretations go as far as to consider, for instance, Vidal a representation of Franco's regime, Carmen a representation of Spain itself, Ofelia a representation of the Spanish Second Republic and Ofelia's brother a representation of the Spanish democracy that would come at the end of Franco's regime.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse: The Pale Man. Just in the one scene but his horrific design and the sheer Nightmare Fuel of his sequence make him even more memorable than the Faun.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending: There are other Falangists (Spanish Fascists) out there, after Vidal's death, and several more decades of dictatorship.
  • Fanon: Despite Word of God confirming that the magic is real, some fans prefer to interpret everything as being in Ofelia's imagination.
  • Genius Bonus: Pretty much every single event in this film is based on an existing folk tale, even the wraparound story. This film is literally folklore wrapped in folklore sprinkled with more folklore which will evoke a strong "don't open the door!" type of terror from those familiar with the source material. Yes, even the crazy stuff regarding chalk doors and mandrake roots have actual folklore magic roots!
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: The film is far more appreciated outside of Spain, where it's only remembered as "a good Guillermo del Toro movie"... if remembered at all. Partly because Spaniard mainstream and geek audiences have kind of a disdain for local cinema.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight:
    • Ofelia's name in the fantasy world is "Princess Moanna". Come 2016, when there's an actual Disney Princess with this name (although spelled slightly differently).
    • Meta example: del Toro compared Steven King's reaction to the Pale Man to winning an Oscar. Come 2017 with The Shape of Water, and del Toro walks away with one for Best Director and Best Film.
  • I Am Not Shazam: The Faun has no mentioned name; "Pan" was used in the English title under the assumption that people would confuse "faun" with "fawn" (baby deer.) Word of God has confirmed that his idea of Pan is far too wild and dangerous to serve in a role of the Faun (Which makes sense, considering the actual mythology behind the God Pan, who is often described as hypersexual or even paedophile.)
  • Just Here for Godzilla: Many only watch the film to see the Pale Man and nothing else.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • It's become fairly common in some circles to note that the Pale Man bears a resemblance to Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell.
    • In keeping with the U.S. politics theme, conflating Alabama Senator Doug Jones with the actor Doug Jones, who portrayed the Faun and the Pale Man in this film (and has had major roles in several other Del Toro films, including the Asset in The Shape of Water).
  • Moe: Ofelia for a few viewers. Despite experiencing the horror of war, her belief in magic and fairy tales endears her to people. She also goes from terrified innocent to Plucky Girl whenever there's a fantasy themed challenge for her.
  • Moral Event Horizon: Vidal beating a boy's face in for supposedly being a rebel is one of the most horrific scenes in the entire movie. It is also one of the first centered on him. And he only gets worse from there.
  • Narm: The Pale Man seeing with his eyes in his hands (which also happens to be the image in the Nightmare Fuel entry of the film), and the King of the Underworld (a.k.a. Ofelia's dad) being an old man with a white beard could fit.
  • Nausea Fuel:
    • The poor sap getting his face beaten in by Vidal, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.
    • The sickening sound as the Doctor begins to cut into the injured man's leg with a saw...
    • The first task, with the frog in the tree. All of it.
    • The bloody face of the poor rebel who was interrogated.
  • Obvious Judas: Subverted! The Faun looks like he's going to turn on Ofelia and viewers aren't surprised when he appears to. But it turns out it was all a Secret Test of Character and he was a benevolent creature after all.
  • One-Scene Wonder: The Pale Man only shows up once, yet for many people, he is the most memorable thing in the movie.
  • Sci Fi Ghetto: It's a fantasy movie that broke out of it in some ways. However, it failed to get a Best Picture nomination. The fact the magical elements are more ambiguous then most fantasy films may have helped. Though notably, del Toro said it led to some people deciding his other films were in the sci-fi/fantasy ghetto, and this was him making a "serious" film. As he will happily tell you, he resents any implication that he sees his more obviously commercial films as less personal.
  • Signature Scene: The Pale Man waking up and putting his eyes into his hands.
  • Squick:
    • Both supernatural (the Pale Man) and mundane (Captain Vidal getting his cheek cut open and subsequent sewing it back together.)
    • And to add to the Squick/Nightmare Fuel factor: After Vidal provisionally sews together his cheek, he takes a quick gulp of whiskey (or some other high-percentage alcohol.) He does not manage to swallow it all at once, and there is a painful sequence, where whiskey comes flushing out of his sown-up cheek. And one can only imagine the intense pain of having an open wound at the mouth flushed with concentrated alcohol, in this case a searing bitter. Strangely enough, this short moment occurs without much blood spill, which in fact makes it all the more... Squick.
  • True Art Is Angsty: Aside from the gruesomeness of the film itself, there are lots of people who insist that Ofelia dying for real, and everything fantasty-genre related is a delusion is a better storyline then what, as per Word of God, actually happens.
  • Ugly Cute: The Faun. Despite being terrifying at first, he has an Ambiguous Innocence that makes him endearing.
  • What an Idiot!: Much like many a child fairy tale protagonist, Ofelia suffers from Genre Blindness by eating from the forbidden feast. Even after she is told repeatedly not to eat from it, with her fairy guides trying to stop her from consuming the grapes, as well as the Pale Man sitting right there at the head of the table. Though, it may have to be taken into account that she hadn't eaten in at least a day and since it was faerie food, it could have very likely been enchanted to be irresistible. The former explanation is seemingly confirmed in Guillermo del Toro's Cabinet of Curiosities. Del Toro comments how he regrets cutting out a line that explains that Ofelia hadn't eaten in a while, thus explaining how easily she fell to the temptation.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?; One of the most profound examples, as the trailers were cut in such a way as to suggest that it's a Disney-esque fantasy. It's not. Really really not.
  • Woolseyism: The aforementioned title change. Its original Spanish title was El Laberinto del Fauno — "The Labyrinth of the Faun."
  • The Woobie:
    • Ofelia and Carmen have both lost their father and husband respectively, and both appear afraid of Captain Vidal. Not to mention that Carmen knows she is at risk to travel so far this late in her pregnancy.
    • Mercedes has a brother in the rebellion and is passing supplies to them, while also working under the very man they're fighting against. The poor woman must be terrified every day of her life. Then she has to watch Ofelia die.

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