The Devil's Backbone
- Guillermo del Toro
- Reviewed by
- José Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, October 31, 2001
Our story takes place during the Spanish Civil War. In a place in the middle of nowhere there’s a kind of orphanage ruled by a one-legged woman (Marisa Paredes), an old doctor (Federico Luppi) and a temperamental guard (Eduardo Noriega), among a few others. The place is full of children even though money is scarce. Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is the newest addition and it is difficult for him to adapt. Even more so because of the presence of a ghost who keeps showing up at every time.
The Devil’s Backbone is a very creepy, very moody suspense yarn. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro has always showed talent for visual style. This movie explores that asset at its fullest. It is visually impressive, hauntingly beautiful and with images you won’ t forget. Aided by Guillermo Navarro’s cinematography, the movie is a feast for the eye.
But what about the story? Is it all style over substance? Well, no, definitely not. Even though the movie has its flaws, it is a very solid horror picture. It has elements that make it quite unique. From the opening scenes you sense the air of mystery, of secrets hidden between the walls. Besides, it’s got more than one subplots, and they mostly work.
The most interesting aspect of the film is the ghost story. We are given hints of what might’ve happened. As things clear out we start discovering not everything is what it looked like. On the other hand, there are also hearts being broken, children trying to cope out with their past and present, people driven only by money... Everything comes together and the results are quite unpredictable, crude and sad, mysterious and intriguing.
If I had to say something negative about the film is the way it sometimes becomes too slow. I know creepy movies sometimes use this device as a mean of building tension, but The Devil’s Backbone has too much going on to allow this to happen. A little trimming here and there might have helped.
Acting-wise the movie is filled with recognized talent which would make any director envious. Marisa Paredes is excellent as the mysterious head of the place, a woman who can be tender at times, the coldest at others. Federico Luppi, on the other hand, is the tower of strenght who has had to sacrifice a lot for what he really wants, except that his suffering might not be paying off that well. Tielve, as the principal child, with his sad look and calmed ways, makes a great lead. And finally Noriega, who’s one of Spain’s most sought after actors, excels in the role of a man with many faces.
Go watch this movie. It’s fun, it’s scary and it’s very good-looking!
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