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

R  |   |  Drama, Horror  |  20 April 2001 (Spain)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 45,089 users   Metascore: 78/100
Reviews: 204 user | 155 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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6 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »



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


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


The living will always be more dangerous than the dead. See more »


Drama | Horror

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

20 April 2001 (Spain)  »

Also Known As:

The Devil's Backbone  »

Box Office


$4,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$34,963 (USA) (23 November 2001)


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

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The character of Jaime is heavily inspired by the famous Spanish comic writer Carlos Giménez. See more »


[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

During the opening credits sequence, the letters of the film's title can be seen floating around the preserved fetuses. Eventually, the letters come together to form the title. See more »


References The Searchers (1956) See more »


Una lágrima
Written by Eugenio Cardenas (as E. Cardenas) and Nicolás Verona (as N. Verona)
Performed by Carlos Gardel
Courtesy Blue Moon Producciones Discograficas
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

a complete film
10 April 2005 | by (denver) – See all my reviews

This is not just an incredibly effective ghost story, but a cinematic masterpiece. Like his "Cronos," Del Toro has created a rich horror fable that is driven by 3-dimensional characters involved in a fascinating plot that leads to a wholly satisfying ending. With many developments along the way that shock, move, and thrill. And of course the political allegory and reality of the film, the Spanish Civil War, all the orphan boys of noble Loyalist fighters fighting their own war against a truly horrifying fascist villain, the young and handsome Jacinto, who is not without a sad ghost in his own past that feeds his destructiveness.

Del Toro is one of the most intelligent and humane directors working today, not something usually said about auteur in the horror genre. I have not seen "Hellboy" but think less of his US endeavors than these two Spanish masterworks...

29 of 41 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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what , no english audio again ? auto78900
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