Devil's Backbone

The Devil's Backbone

4.4 10
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Cast: Guillermo del Toro, Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi

     
 

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Guillermo del Toro, who quickly became one of the most talked-about directors in contemporary horror films with his first two features, Chronos and Mimic, takes on a more subtle tale of terror with this psychological suspense piece. Casares (Federico Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes) operate a small home for orphans in a remote part of Spain during the

Overview

Guillermo del Toro, who quickly became one of the most talked-about directors in contemporary horror films with his first two features, Chronos and Mimic, takes on a more subtle tale of terror with this psychological suspense piece. Casares (Federico Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes) operate a small home for orphans in a remote part of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Helping the couple mind the orphanage are Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), the groundskeeper, and Conchita (Irene Visedo), a teacher who is also involved with Jacinto. Casares and Carmen are aligned with the Republican loyalists, and are hiding a large cache of gold that's used to back the Republican treasury; perhaps not coincidentally, the orphanage has also been subject to attacks from Franco's troops, and an unexploded bomb waits to be defused in the home's courtyard. One day, a boy named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at the home, looking for a place to stay after being left behind by his parents. Casares and Carmen take him in, and the boy soon strikes up an unlikely friendship with Jaime (Inigo Garces), a boy with a reputation for tormenting other kids. But Carlos soon begins having visions of a mysterious apparition he can't identify, and hears strange stories about a child named Santi who went missing the day the bomb appeared near the orphanage.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Tony Nigro
After proving his mettle with the American genre hits Mimic and Blade 2, director Guillermo del Toro returns to Spanish-language filmmaking with The Devil's Backbone. An atmospheric ghost story set in a renegade orphanage during the Spanish Civil War (specifically, 1939), the film frightens more through storytelling than via special effects. Following the mysterious disappearance of a resident/student, young Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at the orphanage, which is an arid oasis in the war, run with tough love by headmistress Carmen (Marisa Paredes, All About My Mother) and Professor Casares (Federico Luppi, Cronos), both of whom traffic in gold and moonshine on the side. Amid typical run-ins with the local bullies, Carlos discovers the ulterior motives of Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega, Open Your Eyes), the aggressive young groundskeeper who has his eye on the headmistress's hidden treasure. Around the premises, Carlos begins to see a ghost child, who repeatedly foretells the explosive results of Jacinto's greed. The seasoned and impressive adult cast is well balanced by the young neophytes, who offer as much range and sympathy as their elders. Del Toro deals in eerie imagery, the most striking of which is an unexploded bomb dropped in the center of a courtyard; the ghost's a chiller, too, always appearing to be submerged underwater, even while walking the halls. Equally masterful is del Toro's handling of the trials of childhood. Rarely has a horror film been as honestly sensitive to growing pains as The Devil's Backbone.
All Movie Guide - Jason Buchanan
"What is a ghost?" asks Spanish director Guillermo Del Toro's supremely menacing supernatural tale of greed and sorrow set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. Although fear of the unknown strikes a chord deep within the collective psyche, Del Toro shows that these things of a more familiar persuasion may, in fact, be the driving force behind their vengeful motivations. The desolate landscape that surrounds the dilapidated orphanage is the ideal setting for a tale of ghosts both literal and figurative - its crumbling corridors the perfect mix of beautiful melancholy and pregnant menace that underscores a sinister mystery slowly bubbling to the surface, and the vengeful supernatural force from the past that roams the decaying hallways which house children with little past or future. Screen newcomer Fernando Tielve shows great promise as the orphanage's fearful yet brave newcomer Carlos, while Obre los Ojos star Eduardo Noriega takes an effectively chilling turn as caretaker Jacinto - the so-called "prince without a kingdom" who is willing to trade his soul for a well-guarded treasure. Menace and mystery are the crucial factors which compel the viewer and command their attention, simultaneously driving the film forward with an increasing sense of dread and wonder. (Guillermo Navarro)'s stylishly aged lens adds the perfect visual texture through the dark nights, in which the children giggle with nervous fear of "the one who sighs," and the harsh daytime hours, in which they attempt to avoid the wrath of a more tangible ghost. In Navarro's lens, director Del Toro has found the perfect visual compliment to his deliberately brooding and seductive tale. A mysterious relic of war that sits silent in the courtyard of the orphanage is a centrally anchored reminder that, even though considered harmless by those who share its space, adds a layer of unresolved tension beneath the fragile surface of reality. With characters' pasts and sometimes questionable motivations slowly revealed as the viewer is taken deeper into the troubled minds of those who dwell in the isolated kingdom in limbo, Del Toro has crafted a finely tuned and quietly intense fable of the influence of ghosts on the fate of man.
Chicago Sun-Times - Roger Ebert

The Devil's Backbone has been compared to The Others, and has the same ambition and intelligence, but is more compelling and even convincing.
Los Angeles Times - Kevin Thomas
With the ambitious and ominous The Devil's Backbone, Del Toro rises to a new level of accomplishment, adding history and politics to his distinctive blend.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/23/2013
UPC:
0715515107716
Original Release:
2001
Rating:
R
Source:
Criterion
Region Code:
A
Presentation:
[Wide Screen]
Time:
1:48:00
Sales rank:
5,861

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Marisa Paredes Carmen
Eduardo Noriega Jacinto
Federico Luppi Casares
Fernando Tielve Actor
Inigo Garces Jaime
Irene Visedo Actor
Berta Ojea Actor

Technical Credits
Guillermo del Toro Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Agustín Almodóvar Executive Producer
Luis de la Madrid Editor
Jorge Hernandez Makeup
Cesar Macarron Art Director
Joaquin Manchado Camera Operator
Salva Mayolas Sound/Sound Designer
David Muñoz Screenwriter
Javier Navarrete Score Composer
Bertha Navarro Executive Producer
Guillermo Navarro Cinematographer
Miguel Rejas Sound/Sound Designer
Antonio Trashorras Screenwriter
José Vico Costumes/Costume Designer

Scene Index

New 2K digital film restoration, approved by director Guillermo del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
Audio commentary featuring Del Toro
Video introduction by Del Toro from 2010
New interviews with Del Toro about the process of creating the ghost Santi and the drawings and designs made in preparation for the film
¿Que es un fantasma?, a 2004 making-of documentary
Spanish Gothic, a 2010 interview with Del Toro about the genre and its influence on his work
Interactive director’s notebook, with Del Toro’s drawings and handwritten notes, along with interviews with the filmmaker.
Four deleted scenes, with optional commentary.
New featurette about the Spanish Civil War as evoked in the film.
Program comparing Del Toro’s thumbnail sketches and Carlos Giménez’s storyboards with the final film.
Selected on-screen presentation of Del Toro’s thumbnail sketches alongside the sections of the final film they represent (Blu-ray edition only).
Theatrical Trailer.
New English subtitle translation
PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by critic Mark Kermode

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The Devil's Backbone 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
a pretty good movie ! kinda sad n a way but also creepy 1..
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is probably the best spanish horror movie I've ever seen. The story is great, with an unexpected twist at the end. The effects for Santi are extremely creepy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the best movies that i have ever seen. Absolutley bone chilling! I don't get scared watching movies very often, but this one really did it for me.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not only that but it also introduced to me to different horror movies other than the usual American ones we seen a million times (no offense). Anyway this was a very good and suspenseful film and that ghost boy was creepy. Here we have a boy who is left at an orphanage and is haunted by a ghost and with help from his new friends they try to find out what happened. The ending was weird but still alright. Letting you know that it is sort of bloody so yeah watch with caution
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