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
As of 2018, "The Devil's Backbone" is the only Guillermo Del Toro film in which neither Ron Perlman or Doug Jones appear. See more »
The amount of gold Jacinto puts in his pockets and ties to his belt would probably pull his pants off and definitely make it impossible for him to stand and walk the way he does. See more »
[voice over narration]
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.
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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 »
A beautiful, atmospheric story about a haunted orphanage. To date, I think it's Del Toro's most "complete" film, combining his trademark visuals with a very touching story about war, death, guilt and grief - and ultimately hope.
Like 'Pan's Labyrinth' the story is set against the backdrop of the Spanish civil war (although here the war serves merely as a background noise). The film is so beautifully shot that I would recommend it even to people who don't normally like ghost stories (it does have some scary moments, mind); this one transcends the horror genre. 8 stars out of 10.
In case you're interested in more underrated masterpieces, here's some of my favorites:
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