Saturday, October 15, 2011
Scariest Characters in Cinema #19 - The Pale Man
Of all the amazing monsters and strange creatures born from the imagination of Guillermo del Toro, the Pale Man is the most frightening. Although Pan's Labyrinth is more of a dark fantasy than a horror film, we meet del Toro's scariest creation during 12-year-old Ofelia's quest to complete three tasks the titular faun has assigned her to prove she is the reincarnation of the princess of the underworld. She is sent to retrieve a dagger from the lair of the Pale Man, a tall, gaunt figure with drooping white skin, sharp teeth, and clawlike fingers. Most disturbing are his eyeless, featureless face and the eyes that are set, instead, in the palms of his hands. When Ofelia disregards one of the faun's instructions and plucks a grape from the Pale Man's banquet spread, he gets pretty pissed about it. He wakes up, bites the heads off two fairies who were helping Ofelia and stalks her down the long hallway to her exit; Ofelia barely escapes.
The Pale Man's appearance only takes up about five minutes of running time, but he's unforgettable. On one level, he's a great metaphor for the decadence of fascist Spain during WWII, the movie's setting. On the other hand, he works because HE BITES THE HEADS OFF OF FAIRIES, he has a horrible, unnatural howl and, when he raises his hands to his face to see, the image has a perfectly uncanny quality. He's like a Fuseli painting brought to life, the horribly perfect end result of some strange alternate thread of evolution. And he's not going to share his grapes; he's saving them for later.