The Devil’s Backbone (2001) dir. Guillermo del Toro


What is truly scarier? The unknown that we don’t see? The things that go bump in the night? Or is it the people that walk past us each and every day? The people who are capable of such atrocities? These questions are the ones constantly brought up whenever Guillermo del Toro releases a new movie. Between the greats like Pan’s Labyrinth and the Hellboy series, del Toro constantly brings up the idea of the unknown and showcases it in a fairy tale and whimsical fashion, but with his signature dark twist. The monsters are hideous but beautiful, and the world surrounding the real one is a lot darker and scarier than you would imagine a fairy tale world to be, but maybe it’s not as dark as the real world. No other film ponders this idea better than The Devil’s Backbone, the most personal film to date for del Toro. Taking place during the final year of the Spanish Civil War, The Devil’s Backbone tells the story of a 12-year-old boy named Carlos (Fernando Tielve) who, after the war death of his father, is brought to an orphanage run by two Republican loyalists, Dr. Casares (Federico Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes). While there, Carlos befriends the orphanage bully Jaime (Íñigo Garcés) and discovers that the orphanage contains a ghost of a deceased child named Santi (Junio Valverde). At the same time in the background, the orphanage caretaker Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega) concocts a plan to take down the heads of the orphanage while the ghost Santi starts to warn Carlos about whats to come.

Just like with every Guillermo del Toro film, The Devil’s Backbone is another gorgeous fantastical tale of the horrors of the unreal and of war time conflicts. Along with its semi-companion piece Pan’s Labyrinth, The Devil’s Backbone is a much more human than fantasy story. The elements of both mix so well, though, that one could say it seems like del Toro’s formula is his own unique blend. No one does a horror film like del Toro. Unsurprisingly, The Devil’s Backbone is an absolutely gorgeous film. Del Toro really understands what to hide and what not to hide with his camera work and the absolutely stunning lighting job. The areas that are dark are pitch black, but del Toro never shies away from gorgeous day time shots as he makes this orphanage in the middle on no where look absolutely beautiful. Along with the pitch perfect horror/war script and the fantastic acting, especially by the young child actor Fernando Tielve as Carlos, The Devil’s Backbone is one of Guillermo del Toro’s best films, one I think he will be remembered by for years to come.

The Devils Backbone
dir. Guillermo Del Toro
106 min

Playing this Friday May 26th at the Coolidge Corner Theater at 11:59 pm in 35mm!

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