In honor of Guillermo del Toro recently winning best Director and Best Picture at the 2018 Academy Awards for The Shape of Water, this week I decided to go with one of his first (and one of his best) films.
PLOT: After Carlos, a 12-year-old whose father died in the Spanish Civil War, arrives at a remote orphanage, he discovers that the school is haunted...and that's just the start of his problems.
MEMORABLE MOMENT: A bomb that was recently dropped from an enemy aircraft sticks up in the middle of the orphanage's courtyard. Boys play around the weapon, not giving it any mind. Carlos (Fernando Tielve), is assured that the bomb has been deactivated. He playfully kicks the bomb and presses his ear to its outer shell. Metal clangs within the mechanical guts. Something is still alive in there, waiting to explode.
- Guillermo del Toro had described this movie as being Pan's Labyrinth's sibling. The Devil's Backbone is the brother. Pan's Labyrinth is the sister.
- The director has also said that the film was strongly inspired by his own personal memories of his uncle, who supposedly came back as a ghost.
- The design of the ghost was inspired by the white-faced spirit in Japanese horror films like Ringu (Thank you Ringu. You will always live in our nightmares.)
- Guillermo del Toro worked on this film for sixteen years. He started writing it when he was in college. (So let that inspire those of you who have novels, screenplays and symphonies hidden in your drawers.)
The Others or The Witch should definitely check this movie out. The atmosphere is potent and seeps under your skin. While I have not yet seen The Orphanage (sorry, I know, I know) I have heard that these two movies are extremely similar. The Orphanage was even produced by del Toro and the two movies share similar plots and even images.
I was once swapping obscure horror movie recommendations with someone at work. He said something along the lines of, "I want something totally messed up, something were even the dog dies." This wouldn't be the movie for him.
Don't get me wrong, The Devil's Backbone has some very unsettling moments (Spoiler Alert: children do die). However, while there are several classic horror ghost scenes the true terror comes from the atmosphere and the turbulent times in which these children live (the movie is set during the Spanish Civil War). In a way the film is more melancholy than it is disturbing. It is a truly beautiful ghost story with images and characters that will stay with you long after the the dedication at the end, "To my parents."
WHERE CAN YOU FIND IT? The movie is available on Netflix DVD. It is also available to rent ($3.99) or buy (12.99) on Amazon.
RUNTIME: 106 Minutes
DIRECTOR: Guillermo del Toro
Guillermo del Toro