Just like most people I've had a lot of monsters in my life to deal with-and who hasn't, right? Our monsters could be stress at work, a big exam coming up, bereavement, family difficulties, mental health problems, money problems. The list really is endless!
All of us have our monsters, but not all of us have the strength to fight them effectively, and to win. Instead of fighting my monsters or trying to understand them I have often hidden away and tried to wish them out of existence. Now that's ok if the problem you are facing is minor and may well sort itself out, but for the serious stuff, this really isn't the wisest approach. Unsurprisingly, when I have tried to face things in this way I find that when I turn around or open my eyes again, my monsters are still lurking, waiting to pounce.
It was because of my approach to dealing with some of the monsters in my life that I found something I read recently so interesting and inspiring.
Guillermo Del Toro is a famous Mexican film director, best known for his Hollywood movies such as Pacific Rim, Crimson Peak and the Hellboy movies as well as his quite brilliant Spanish language films such as Pan's Labyrinth and Cronos. I have always been a great fan of his films and of the artwork he creates when coming up with his ideas.
Del Toro said that at a very young age he was often plagued by monsters and would wet the bed because of the monsters in his room. Tired of being in trouble for this he said to his monsters ,' "If you allow me to go pee, I'll be your friend forever." They disappeared and I have peed happily since.' (theguardian.com) His second home, which Del Toro calls 'Bleak House' is filled with monster movie and fantasy memorabilia that for some, would make it a very haunting place to be. Instead of being afraid of his monsters, Del Toro accepted them, and has now even invited them into his home.
The idea of making friends with my monsters was something I couldn't have thought of on my own. I hate my monsters. For too long the monsters that have appeared in my life have had the power to greatly affect my life and my decisions. It is only recently I have come to realise that my monsters are a part of me, just like your monsters are a part of you. They are as real as the device you are reading this on, and I think we need to accept them and understand them rather than simply try to hide and run away from them if we are to be their master; if we are to take control of them rather than letting them control us. So the new me is embracing my monsters, my fears. I'm understanding that all these things make me, me.
So thank you Mr Del Toro. You have inspired me, not only through your art and the movies you make, but also by showing me there is another path I can try to take to deal with the stresses of life and the monsters which appear.
Now, enough of the serious stuff. All my friends and family know that I love movies. My walls are covered in paintings, images and the odd bit of memorabilia from films, my shelves filled with special edition DVDs and blu-rays and I am proud to say I have never been beaten in a game of Scene It (Disney addition doesn't count). With all this in mind, and with the advice of Guillermo Del Toro fresh in my mind, I'd like to explore some of my favourite movies featuring monsters you may like to make friends with. Feel free to add your own suggestions about movie monsters to be friends with in the comments below.
The films I will explore in this blog are: Pan's Labyrinth, Little Monsters, Warm Bodies, Shaun of the Dead and, The Babadook. Be aware, major spoilers ahead!
*Pan's Labyrinth will be covered in part 1 of this blog, whilst the other films will be covered in Part 2 which will be published in a few weeks time.
Set in 1944, against the backdrop of the ending of the Spanish Civil War, Pan's Labyrinth is the story of Ofelia, a young girl who moves to a rural house with her mother and her stepfather, a sadistic and cruel Falangist Captain. The first time we see Ofelia is an enlightening moment. Riding in a carriage with her heavily pregnant mother, travelling to the house to meet 'the Captain', they have to stop due to mother feeling ill. It is at this moment that Ofelia is quick to hop out of the carriage, fairytale books in hand, to explore the woods surrounding them. She quickly discovers an old statue, and crawling out of one of it's eyes is what I can only describe as a huge, winged, stick insect. Now most children (and grown ups like me!) might revulse at such a sight, but Ofelia is instead curious of the creature asking it 'are you a fairy?' I found this moment really interesting as it immediately shows us Ofelia's ability to look beyond the outward appearance of something and to see what is underneath.
We quickly discover this stick insect is indeed a mythical creature when it visits Ofelia that night and, after changing its form into a winged fairy like being before her eyes, leads her to an ancient Labyrinth on the grounds of the house they now inhabit.
On entering the Labyrinth, Ofelia encounters a faun, Pan, who tells her she is the daughter of the Lord of the Underworld and her return has been long awaited. In Greek mythology, Pan is the God of the wild, and a faun like creature and Del Toro himself said of fauns "It's very important that they're never fully good or bad. The faun in classical mythology is neither--it represents nature." (pajiba.com) This perfectly sums up Pan throughout the film, with some of his actions and deeds appearing to be both at different points. Perhaps Del Toro was saying that in nature there is good and evil and the faun represents this.
On meeting Pan, he sets Ofelia three challenges she must complete to prove she is the daughter of the Lord of the Underworld and not just another mortal, and if she completes them all before the full moon rises, she will be accepted into the other realm. Now at no point during any of this so far does Ofelia show any fear, and as she completes the first two tasks, crossing paths with a giant toad and The Pale Man (a strange creatures with eyes in his hands who kills two fairies by biting their heads off), she shows less fear in these situations then she does when facing her daily existence with her stepfather who cares little for her mother except to provide him with a son, and is seen throughout the movie torturing people with hammers and other instruments. And it is because of this that you are always asking yourself, who is the real monster of the story?
Towards the conclusion of the film, Pan sets Ofelia her final challenge - she is to bring her newborn little brother (her mother died during the childbirth) to the Labyrinth to meet him. When she arrives, (stepfather in pursuit) Pan tells her she must spill the blood of her brother to open the portal to the underworld. When she refuses he challenges and goads her, but she refuses still. Finally her stepfather catches up with her and, after taking the child away from Ofelia, shoots her and leaves her bleeding to death on the ground.
It is at this moment that we discover that Ofelia has actually passed the final test, choosing to spill her own blood rather than that of her innocent brother. The film finishes with Ofelia taking her place alongside her father, the Lord of the Underworld and her mother seated next to him, whilst back at the Labyrinth we see Ofelia's body die. In a strange way, this reminded me of Peter Pan, spiriting Wendy away to Neverland. And of course, it is widely regarded that Peter Pan is so named after the Greek god Pan, with Peter also playing the flute or panpipes which are named after the faun like creature.
This movie made me think of many things, some of which I haven't yet come to a conclusion about myself. First of all, it is clear that Ofelia was indeed more comfortable and happier surrounded by the 'monsters' of the mystical world rather than the people who inhabited the real world and it is by chasing these creatures and making friends with them that she ultimately escapes her awful life and her evil stepfather. The movie also suggests the underworld is where the 'good people' really are, as her final challenge of sacrificing herself to save an innocent seems to prove. Finally, as we watch the Earthbound body of Ofelia die next to the portal, I was left wondering if all of the fantastical things that had happened in the film had only happened in Ofelia's imagination. Did she invent all of this, and live inside one of her own fairytales like the stories she loved so dearly and that her release at the end is death, and nothing more. I don't know for sure, but I've chosen to see it as a happy ending anyway, with Ofelia escaping the cruel world she lived in to move on to a happier place where she is at peace...whatever that place may be.
Del Toro quotes taken from: