Written by Antonio Trashorras & Guillermo del Torro
Directed by Guillermo del Torro
A classic ghost story about revenge set at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War.
So, I’m really late to The Devil’s Backbone party; over a decade if you want to be specific. What I lost in timeliness, I promise to make up for in enthusiasm. Even with the glaring failure that was Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, del Torro keeps his director-supreme title intact with this fantastic Spanish film. This is available through OnDemand at Fear.net right now.
“What are ghosts?” the narrator asks in this neo-gothic revenge tale. A ten year old boy, Carlos, is abandoned at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. As he adjusts to his new home, he must deal with a bully, as well as a haunting apparition of a young boy recently killed there. The murdered boy was dropped into a well after his death and begins to haunt Carlos as well as the orphanage.
Carlos, our unlikely hero.
While the film starts slow, the unique vision of del Torro is visible from the opening seconds. The empathy you feel starts immediately. Stuck in this desert home, you feel for this unfortunate band of kids as their day to day life as elementary school students unfolds along with the various adults tasked with running the home.
As the film progresses, Santi, the ghost child, makes his presence more and more known to Carlos, who is trying to adjust to being the new kid and deal with a bully. The kids eventually band together as some clear battle lines are drawn. Riddled with corruption, the adults at the home slowly identify a murderous wretch in their midst. When one of their own are banished from the home, things fall into place rapidly.
The visual aspect of this film is breathtaking. The shimmery, underwater grave of Santi presents itself on dry ground as the ghost points Carlos more and more in the right direction to have his revenge. The fear the children feel was palpable in my living room. The fact that none of these children deserve the horrific lot they’ve been given makes it even more painful.
Ultimately, the ghost makes his needs clear and true revenge is obtained through a series of tragic events. The acting, location, story, and direction are so inspired. You can feel the emotion flooding the movie in your gut. del Toro delivers an amazing tale in stunning clarity. His sense of direction is nothing less than incredible. If you’re a fan of horror movies that immerse you in the life of the protagonist, then you’ll love this one. I can’t impress upon you how great The Devil’s Backbone truly is.