The Devil’s Backbone is a movie about ghosts set against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War. It features a familiar structure for this subgenre complete with a haunted building, this time a creepy orphanage. Oddly enough, we already talked about another Spanish movie with the same setting, The Orphanage. Luckily we didn’t up in an insane asylum this time, a preferred location for a majority of ghosts movies. What makes The Devil’s Backbone different is its director, Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Cronos, Mimic). The man is a freaking genius and I can’t wait to see his next movie.
del Toro’s movies always feel authentic, atmospheric, and sensual. He can make the most frightening events feel cool and approachable. Just like he did in Pan’s Labyrinth, a movie he calls a sister movie to this one, featuring more of a brotherly energy. We will be following a young boy called Carlos who arrives at an orphanage in the middle of nowhere. Soon, he starts having visions of otherworldly apparitions roaming the hallways of this huge structure. Pretty standard-issue stuff, right? Again, del Toro masterfully takes us back to our childhood, making us remember how it feels to be young.
Just like King or Spielberg, he has a way of recreating those universal childhood memories. And once he “has” you, everything supernatural that happens next will feel more real. Visually, The Devil’s Backbone is a beautiful movie. The cinematography is simply gorgeous featuring saturated colors and crystal crisp focus. And since almost all of the story happens in this one location, the orphanage, they could really make it look believable. Complete with that huge fucking bomb in the middle of the yard. I mean, who came up with that brilliant idea?
It is the year of our Satan 1939 and the Spanish Civil War is slowly coming to an end. There’s hope that this year will be different from others. A hope that’s in vain since the whole of Europe will be in flames in just a couple of months. However, for now, at least, things are looking good, especially for young Carlos who just arrived at this remote orphanage. He loves the vibe of the places until he sees something in the window. A boy who appears to be not so alive. And so the story begins.
I say story, but I should say dark fairy tale because this is what The Devil’s Backbone is, a dark, almost Gothic fairy tale. And I loved how we waste no time and see our first ghost seven minutes in. I think that’s some kind of a record. The pacing slows down a bit after that leaving us to focus on the creepy atmosphere. And to fully immerse us in the story. I remember watching this movie for the first time and being utterly scared when the kid went to the basement. And then the little fucker even found a creepy pool there all the while I was yelling get the fuck out at the screen. I guess he didn’t hear me.
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Cast: Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Irene Visedo, Juan Carlos Vellido, Adrián Lamana
Fun Facts: Was strongly inspired by the director’s personal memories, especially his relationship with his uncle, who supposedly came back as a ghost.