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

R  |   |  Drama, Horror  |  20 April 2001 (Spain)
7.5
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 43,611 users   Metascore: 78/100
Reviews: 203 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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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Carmen
...
Jacinto
...
Dr. Casares
...
Carlos
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:

The living will always be more dangerous than the dead. 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:

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

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

Described by Guillermo del Toro as being a sibling film to Pan's Labyrinth (2006) (this being the masculine "brother" film, and Pan's as the feminine "sister" film). 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 The Holiday (2006) See more »

Soundtracks

Una lágrima
Written by Eugenio Cardenas (as E. Cardenas) and Nicolás Verona (as N. Verona)
Performed by Carlos Gardel
Courtesy Blue Moon Producciones Discograficas
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
A Beautiful, Bloody Ghost Story
21 May 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The year is 1939. The Spanish Civil War is nearing its bloody end. Ten year old Carlos, the orphaned son of a slain Republican, is left by his tutor at an isolated orphanage for boys. The school is destitute, barely able to provide enough food for the children, but headmistress Carmen and Dr. Casares do the best they can. Carlos accepts his fate bravely, but there are still school bullies to contend with, an unexploded bomb sitting in the courtyard as a constant reminder of the war which still rages, and an abusive caretaker named Jacinto who has his own secret agenda. As if that were not enough, a ghost begins stalking Carlos, the ghost of a boy named Santi whose demise is shrouded in mystery and who solemnly warns Carlos that many will soon die. As the war begins closing in on the orphanage, violence erupts within and Santi's prediction comes sadly true. But the worst has not yet happened. The abandoned boys must band together if they hope to survive, and the dead will aid their cause if they are to be avenged.

This is a beautiful movie, absolutely gorgeous from start to finish. The dusty, isolated landscape is a ghost itself and the constant threat of violence - from the war, to the bullies and, of course, from the traitorous Jacinto - gives this film an unrelenting atmosphere of tension and dread. The acting is superb, from the children as well as the adults. Federico Luppi as Dr. Casares is superb, providing us with a true hero, a gentleman of class and compassion. Eduardo Noriega is perfectly cast as the despicable Jacinto, making you despise him more and more as the film progresses. This is not just a ghost story, though the figure of Santi is central and key to everything that happens. It is a tale of love and honor as well as horror and ruin. It is a coming of age story and an adult drama. It also manages to be scary as hell when it wants to be.

Guillermo del Toro has made a masterpiece with "The Devils Backbone." Ten stars for this hauntingly lovely epic.


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