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The Devil's Backbone (2001)

El espinazo del diablo (original title)
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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 that he must uncover.

Director:

Guillermo del Toro
6 wins & 7 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
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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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, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$754,749, 5 May 2002
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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

Featured in Horror Europa with Mark Gatiss (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

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

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
"What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? ...
8 March 2006 | by G_a_l_i_n_aSee all my reviews

...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."

Often compared to "The Sixth Sense (1999)" and "The Others (2001)", "The Devil's Backbone" is even a better film, the ultimate ghost story that goes beyond the genre and very successfully mixes horror, suspense, and coming of age during the war time story. Written and directed by Guillermo del Toro, the film takes place during the Spanish Civil War in an isolated boarding school for the orphans of the War where a new boy, Carlos encounters the ghost of a murdered child Santi whose body was never found and who warns Carlos that "Many of you will die". How did Santi die? Why does not he leave the school's courtyard, what is the tragedy he is trying to prevent? It is up to Carlos to find the answers to these and many more questions as well as to stand up to the school's bully, Jaime and to find out what is behind the violent hostility of the orphanage's nasty caretaker, Jacinto who himself was and orphan and had been a pupil in the school as a child. The movie is not just beautifully directed – it is very well written and provides the deep insight into each character, including school headmistress named Carmen (Marisa Paredes), kind and brave Professor Casares, vicious bully Jaime who would turn a lonely and scared boy and even the embodiment of evil, Jacinto with his own heartbreaking story. Along with "The Spirit of the Beehive", "Devil's Backbone" is a harrowing exploration of the war and its affect on childhood. It also brings to mind such classic as Bunuel's "Los Olvidados" – and this is the best praise I have for any movie. Highly recommended.


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