While the cinema is full of familiar stories and studios won’t make a film unless the book has sold a gazillion copies, going to see a Spanish fairytale movie is quite a refreshing change.

Of course fairytales are the oldest stories of the lot, and they are actually jam-packed with clichés, but what people seem to forget is that they can be incredibly dark too. Thankfully the makers of Pan’s Labyrinth have not forgotten this. Within the labyrinth are woodlice the size of my fist and a fairy disguised as praying mantis; even in the real world post Spanish Civil War setting there is a fair bit of gore and wince-making surgery. So this is very much a fairytale for adults and as adults we will have seen the themes (your basic good versus evil) a million times. But it is so refreshing to see this retrodden material handled like this, although there is a slight whiff of the awful Jim Henson Labyrinth; this version is lots darker as well as being more uplifting.

The acting is top-drawer; Sergi Lopez is a stunningly proud and evil Fascist captain while the lowly and invisible Mercedes, played by Maribel Verdu is easily his equal as an actor and in terms of her quietly powerful portrayal of the housekeeper. The only slight disappointment, and it is only a slight disappointment, is the performance of Ivana Baquero as Ofelia, the heroine. In any other film she would have been fine, but this film is so strong on so many levels that her slightly lacking performance does stand out more than it would in a less perfect film.

I don’t really like fantasy – Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter left me cold – but this form of fantasy and the way it mixes insidiously with the real life experiences of the small girl is intriguing and beguiling. And you can bet there isn’t going to be a prequel or a Pan’s Labyrinth II, because this was a film made by filmmakers not moneymakers.