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Pale Man

Pan's Labyrinth
by yo go re

Years before winning an Academy Award for his erotic Abe Sapien fanfic, Guillermo del Toro created the bispell fairy tale El Laberinto del Fauno - or "Pan's Labyrinth" to those of us who can't speak Spanish.

The insidious brutality of the real world continues to cast a long shadow, infiltrating even the fantasy world of 11-year-old Ofelia, who begins a terrifying, reality-spanning journey after meeting a mysterious faun in a crumbling labyrinth. Her mystic quest crosses seamlessly from one world to the other, weaving a parable about the power and pain of innocence.

It's no secret Guillermo del Toro has a deep and abiding love for monsters, so naturally this movie is full of them. The most iconic, and therefore logically the first one NECA made, is the Pale Man, the movie's take on a child-eating ogre. The creature is designed to look like he was once fat but has swiftly starved, despite the sumptuous banquet that is spread out before him (in a room that - not coincidentally - looks like the dining hall where Captain Vidal lavishly entertains the town's mayor and bishop the day before handing out ration cards to the general citizenry and organizing breadlines). Loose folds of skin drape off his rickety bones, and they look absolutely disgusting!

Del Toro has said that the Pale Man represents the Catholic church (which was of course highly complicit with Franco's Spain, as it historically has been with many dictators and fascists), blasé about the nearly perverse levels of abundance at hand and obsessed with devouring and despoiling innocence and purity. He's also said it's no accident the beast is both "pale" and a "man." The fact that it looks 100% deadass like Mitch McConnell? That one probably is just a coincidence - guy may be a craven coward who puts the good of his political party miles and miles ahead of the good of his country, but we certainly have no concrete proof that he lives in an underground palace and shovels any children who wander by into his loose-jowled maw. No proof. Just hearsay.

Pale Man's most famous trait is that his "Republican senator from Kentucky" face has no eyes, just nasal slits. He actually keeps his eyes on a platter before him, and when he wants to see, he inserts them into the sockets on his palms - some nice stigmata imagery there. This figure does have the eyes on the platter, but they're molded on, so you're not expected to try to fit them into the hands on your own. The eyes are already sculpted in place there, and we don't even get the option of alternate hands without them.

It will not surprise you to learn that the figure's paint is very... not dark. He is mostly a very very light pink, though with darker shades painted in the folds of his flesh. It gets particularly heavy on the droopy jawline, which makes the toy look like he has an unfortunate beard. The hands look appropriately bloody, and his fingernails are painted black.

You know how NECA likes to give their figures rubber unerwear as a way to preserve the hip articulation? Yeah, well, they used it again here, meaning all those draping wrinkles of skin are soft and pliable when you touch them. Ewwwww! So gross! So perfect! Pale Man has balljointed ankles and wrists, swivel/hinge knees and hips, balljointed waist and chest, double-swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/hinge shoulders, and a balljointed neck and head. The color difference between the chin and the rest of the face makes it look like that should move, but it doesn't. The arms are flexible enough that you can get his hands up in front of his face so he can look around. His legs are so bowed, though, that it's hard to get him to stand up right - but luckily, there's a solution for that.

In the movie, the Pale Man sits at the head of a banquet table. Obviously, NECA couldn't do all that, but they could make this a deluxe figure and include the chair he sits in. It's huge and heavy, and detailed just as lovingly as the figure himself. The wooden parts look like they've been carved from actual planks and panels, while the upholstered cushions wrinkle properly. The thing stands almost 7" tall, and while we'd still have been thrilled to get this figure without a chair, including it adds a certain something. Still, both the chair and the plate of eyeballs do suffer for lack of a table to put them at. There's just no way around that. The insert behind the figure depicts his roaring fireplace, which is a smart choice, but... oh, if only there were a way to do the table!

The Pale Man is not a subtle piece of storytelling - like, there's no escaping the symbolic connotations of a pile of children's shoes in a story about fascism in the mid-40s, right? But he only appears in a single scene, so his impact needs to come fast. So yeah, make him white, make his room reflect the human villains, make him eat faeries like a Goya painting, whatever; get the message across that this isn't just a gross design, it's allegory. Guillermo del Toro did that wonderfully, and NECA has done a terrific job of turning that into plastic.

-- 07/18/19

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