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

Director:

Guillermo del Toro
6 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Marisa Paredes ... Carmen
Eduardo Noriega ... Jacinto
Federico Luppi ... Dr. Casares
Fernando Tielve ... Carlos
Íñigo Garcés ... Jaime
Irene Visedo ... Conchita
José Manuel Lorenzo José Manuel Lorenzo ... Marcelo
Francisco Maestre ... El Puerco (as Paco Maestre)
Junio Valverde ... Santi
Berta Ojea Berta Ojea ... Alma
Adrián Lamana Adrián Lamana ... Gálvez
Daniel Esparza Daniel Esparza ... Marcos
Miguel Ortiz Miguel Ortiz
Juan Carlos Vellido
Javier Bódalo 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:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

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 »

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.
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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 »

Connections

Featured in The 100 Scariest Movie Moments: Part II: 75-51 (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Recordar
Written by Charles Borel-Clerc and José Luis Salado
Performed by Imperio Argentina and Manolo Russell
Courtesy Producciones El Delirio
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User Reviews

 
Haunting, Sad And Beautiful
11 February 2018 | by gogoschka-1See all my reviews

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:

imdb.com/list/ls070242495


43 of 48 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

Mexico | Spain

Language:

Spanish

Release Date:

20 April 2001 (Spain) See more »

Also Known As:

The Devil's Backbone See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$4,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$34,963, 25 November 2001

Gross USA:

$755,249

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$6,582,065
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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