We Americans forget what fairy tales used to be: cautionary morality tales full of fear, dread, retribution and vindication. Before someone rhymed "Stranger Danger" there were stories like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.
Guillermo del Toro brings us back to those days by taking us to a time that is close enough to be modern, but distant enough to be Once Upon a Time. Don't let the Spanish language scare you off. Follow the subtitles and the story will carry you along with it.
The time is Franco's Spain, and a little girl, Ofelia (brilliantly acted by Ivana Banquero), accompanies her pregnant mother to meet her new stepfather, a captain in the Spanish army. Against the backdrop of the confusing and violent politics of an occupying army, and the dark atmosphere of a threatening stepfather and helpless mother, Ofelia does the only thing she can do: she retreats to a world of fantasy. But even the fantasy is dark and threatening.
No spoilers here. Watch the movie and be impressed. Highly recommended. This ranks in my 100 best movies for uniqueness alone.