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The Devil's Backbone (2001)
"El espinazo del diablo" (original title)

 -  Drama | Horror  -  20 April 2001 (Spain)
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 41,779 users   Metascore: 78/100
Reviews: 201 user | 151 critic | 30 from Metacritic.com

After Carlos, a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War, arrives at an ominous boy's orphanage he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover.

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Carmen
...
...
Dr. Casares
...
Íñigo Garcés ...
Jaime
...
Conchita
José Manuel Lorenzo ...
Marcelo
Francisco Maestre ...
El Puerco (as Paco Maestre)
Junio Valverde ...
Santi
Berta Ojea ...
Alma
Adrián Lamana ...
Gálvez
Daniel Esparza ...
Marcos
Javier Bódalo ...
Búho (as Javier González Madrigal)
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Storyline

It is 1939, the end of three years of bloody civil war in Spain, and General Franco's right-wing Nationalists are poised to defeat the left-wing Republican forces. A ten-year-old boy named Carlos, the son of a fallen Republican war hero, is left by his tutor in an orphanage in the middle of nowhere. The orphanage is run by a curt but considerate headmistress named Carmen and a kindly Professor Casares, both of whom are sympathetic to the doomed Republican cause. Despite their concern for him, and his gradual triumph over the usual schoolhouse bully, Carlos never feels completely comfortable in his new environment. First of all, there was that initial encounter with the orphanage's nasty caretaker, Jacinto, who reacts even more violently when anyone is caught looking around a particular storage room the one with the deep well. Second, and more inexplicable, is the presence of a ghost, one of the former occupants of the orphanage named Santi. Not long after Carlos' arrival, Santi ... Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

What is a ghost? See more »

Genres:

Drama | Horror

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

| |

Language:

Release Date:

20 April 2001 (Spain)  »

Also Known As:

The Devil's Backbone  »

Box Office

Budget:

$4,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$16,290 (Hong Kong) (25 October 2002)

Gross:

$16,290 (Hong Kong) (25 October 2002)
 »

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film came together when Guillermo del Toro bumped into Pedro Almodóvar at the 1994 Miami Film Festival where he had just shown Cronos (1993). Almodovar told him that he had just seen his film and wanted to produce his next movie. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[voice over narration]
Casares: What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber.
See more »

Crazy Credits

For my parents See more »

Connections

Referenced in Pacific Rim (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Besos fríos
Written by R. Romero and R. Lhoba
Performed by Raquel Meller
Courtesy Blue Moon Producciones Discograficas
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Masterful Spanish ghost story - an instant classic
6 May 2005 | by See all my reviews

THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE (El Espinazo del Diablo)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1

Sound format: Dolby Digital

During the Spanish Civil War, a young orphan boy (Fernando Tielve) is sent to an isolated boarding school where he encounters the ghost of a murdered child (Junio Valverde) who warns him of impending disaster...

A masterpiece. Filmed in Spain by writer-director Guillermo del Toro following his unhappy Hollywood debut (MIMIC), this spellbinding melodrama works both as an examination of the political turmoil which characterized the Spanish Civil War, and as a simple ghost story in which a tragic spirit seeks vengeance for a terrible crime. Employing restless camera-work and atmospheric set designs to their best advantage, del Toro visualizes his own script (co-written with Antonio Trashorras and David Muñoz) as the story of a vulnerable child cast adrift in a strange new world, where he must contend not only with everyday problems (such as the school bully, Ínigo Garcés, whose motives are rather more complex than they first appear), but also his frequent encounters with the unhappy ghost, some of which are genuinely unsettling (watch out for the heart-stopping sequence in which Tielve is besieged in a closet by the enraged phantom).

Production values are first-class throughout, ranging from César Macarrón's evocative art direction and Salvador Mayolas' ultra-creepy sound design, through to Luis de la Madrid's crisp editing skills and Javier Navarrete's unforgettable music score. Visual effects and makeup designs are also superb, though deliberately underplayed for maximum emotional effect. The cast is toplined by Spanish movie veterans Marisa Paredes (a favorite of Pedro Almodóvar) and Federico Luppi (CRONOS), and there are impressive turns by Irene Visedo as a young woman whose loyalties are divided by circumstances, and rising star Eduardo Noriega (the Spanish equivalent of Brad Pitt) as Visedo's boyfriend, an orphan-turned-caretaker whose volatile nature leads to a dramatic conclusion, with appalling consequences for everyone around him. Tielve is magnificent as the wide-eyed innocent at the center of the narrative, and Garcés is every bit his equal as the bully who reclaims his dignity during a climactic showdown with the forces of evil. Released around the same time as THE OTHERS (2001) - another Spanish ghost story, filmed in English as a vehicle for Nicole Kidman - THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE was consigned to Art-house distribution by virtue of its status as a subtitled movie and suffered a comparative loss at the US box-office, though del Toro's magical fever dream is unquestionably the better of the two films.

(Spanish dialogue)


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