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The Devil’s Backbone (2001)
Director: Guillermo Del Toro
Cast: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Inigo Garces, Irene Visedo, Junio Valverde
After Carlos – a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War – arrives at an ominous boys’ orphanage, he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover. – IMDB
Guillermo Del Toro returns to Spanish films as he creates this horror drama that takes a twist on the traditional ghost story. The Devil’s Backbone has always been regarded as a strong film in the Del Toro filmography and its one that brings around a lot of originality while still having the factors of multiple parallel plot points and character relationships as a result, creating depth in its myriad of characters.
The Devil’s Backbone is a fantastic film. The main reasoning behind it being that despite its slower pacing, this film finds it footing of the multi-genre approach and the rare gem that creates a horror with both depth and properly executed twists and build-up. He starts the film as a ghost story, introducing us to a ghost boy Santi haunting the orphanage as well as the bullying theme which brings together the boys and their respective troubles that eventually bring them together by the end. At the same time, its makes us question the unresolved issue that keeps Santi there. The orphanage itself and the general setting is not only plagued with impending political issues as well as an unexploded bomb in the grounds that has its own set of questions and assumptions from the characters.
What deserves real mention here are the core characters other than Carlos but the adult characters who each have their own imperfections, be it the headmistress with her artificial leg who finds emotional companionship in his friend, Dr. Casares, played by Federico Luppi while also enjoying the physical desire she gets from a twisted young character, Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega) who has ulterior motives. While the characters weaker in nature like Dr. Casares and Jacinto’s fiancee, Conchita, played by Irene Visedo, end up finding a strength when things take a turn for the worst in the final act. At the same time, the human villain here, Jacinto which Eduardo Noriego does a great job at interpreting because the character is also written with so much depth, with proper motives and twisted psychological and never admitting defeat sort of deal, making him a character with no limits to when he stops and that makes him even harder to forgive.
Del Toro creates misdirection in one way and also boasts his ability to create human monsters rather than the typical route of making the paranormal spirits the big evil. With that said, the horror drama here leans more towards the drama aspects than the horror. It isn’t to say that when the horror moments happen that it doesn’t deliver some chilling goosebumps moments with its sound design and atmosphere.
Have you seen The Devil’s Backbone?
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