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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 29.55%
Average: 6.82%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

4 reviews, 20 user ratings

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Devil's Backbone, The
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by EricDSnider

"Dios mio, esta pelicula scared the crap out of me."
5 stars

No matter what your native tongue, the Spanish-language “Devil’s Backbone” is sure to give you a serious case of the creeps. The title is nearly irrelevant; one imagines it was chosen just so critics would say, “’The Devil’s Backbone’ will send shivers up your spine!” Which is accurate, if trite.

It is written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, and produced by Pedro Almodóvar, who wrote and directed “All About My Mother.” But it recalls the work of another Spanish director, Alejandro Amenábar, who gave us “The Others.” This film doesn’t adhere to that one’s policy of no onscreen violence, it does make the same excellent use of ominous sound mixing and a really creepy ghost.

The setting is the Spanish Civil War, where a boarding school is now a de facto orphanage for the children of Republicans who have died in battle. We meet young Carlos (Fernando Tielve), a well-behaved, curious newcomer who immediately runs afoul of the school bully Jaime (Íńigo Garcés), while being protected by the kindly Dr. Cesares (Federico Luppi) and wooden-legged headmistress Carmen (Marisa Paredes). There’s also a maintenance man to worry about, the amoral Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), whose first scene with Carmen may indeed shock you.

There is much intrigue to be had at the school. Not long ago, a bomb was dropped in the courtyard, but it failed to explode. It has since been defused, and now it sits as a monument to the good fortune of those who live there. However, the night it landed, a boy disappeared.

I am reminded again of “The Others” in the way “The Devil’s Backbone” reveals information. For the first half of the film, nearly every scene adds some new detail that makes the situation more fraught with gleeful horror than you had previously supposed. The school is a day’s walk from town. Carlos sleeps in the bed formerly inhabited by someone called “Santi.” Students make hushed references to “one who sighs.” Creepiest of all, a ghostly voice tells Carlos: “Many of you will die.”

Del Toro makes his political allegories subtly; you could watch the film as nothing more than a ghost story that turns into a macabre vengeance tale and not miss anything. It ends a bit too easily, and some of the conventions of movie-making bother me -- how come the only people who ever fall in the water are people who can’t swim? -- but these are minor complaints surrounded by a host of compliments for this dread-filled, eerie campfire story.

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originally posted: 01/04/02 09:27:22
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User Comments

9/14/17 morris campbell a killer ghost story 4 stars
8/01/13 Langano Nice little ghost story but not scary. 3 stars
8/12/11 jiropan i love intense ghost syory 4 stars
6/07/09 MP Bartley Ghost story is kind of peripheral, but it's directed with verve and colour. 4 stars
11/11/05 kakakka Inigo Garces is the most sexiest boy I ever seen 5 stars
10/29/05 Indrid Cold A masterpiece, except that it's unscary and boring. 3 stars
6/01/05 Scott Reynolds highly atmospheric and scary. One of akind greatness. 5 stars
2/10/05 axe Mimic was far scarier, Cronos is still my favorite from del Toro 3 stars
10/26/04 Puspa Allamanda I LOVE INIGO GARCES VERY MUCH!!!!!!! 5 stars
5/24/04 Jorge Fernandito Reyvaldo G The best spanish movie I ever seen 5 stars
4/11/04 Tiffany It was an excellent! Gave me chills, made me scream, & even scared the hell out of me! 5 stars
2/04/04 HorrorScribbler Creepy and intriguing, with good characters and plot 5 stars
5/21/03 Jerry A film well done.Nice job,Toro 5 stars
2/11/03 Jim Allegorical tale of brutality, betrayal, and revenge 5 stars
12/21/02 rue the whirl stylish and scary, but predictable 4 stars
8/31/02 Robbie Banfitch creepy, the characters are great 5 stars
7/01/02 The Bomb 69 spooky, well mode horror film with little blood and guts 5 stars
2/21/02 Carly Solid. Spooky and engaging ghost story. 4 stars
12/27/01 Rolo Wonderful Spanish Thriller 4 stars
11/21/01 daniboy very scary. nice metaphor 4 stars
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  21-Nov-2001 (R)
  DVD: 27-Jul-2004



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