The Devil’s Backbone

Viewed – 01 March 2011  Blu-ray

I’m a big fan of Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro, the acclaimed director behind the Hellboy franchise as well as Pan’s Labyrinth and also this much respected ghost story.  With a backdrop of the Spanish civil war, a young boy arrives at a secluded Orphanage, which only months previous was witness to an unexploded bomb landing, now displayed, newly diffused in the centre of the courtyard.  The boy soon makes friends with the others, but also grabs the attention of the resident bully, who is determined to make his stay a rocky one.  Yet the Orphanage hides a dark secret, and during the night, the halls and dormitories are haunted by the ghost of a dead child.

Shot with Del Toro’s usual style and atmosphere, this slow burning but absorbing tale is thoroughly creepy even though for the most part it plays it safe when it comes to the shocks and scares.  Del Toro regular Frederico Luppi (Cronos) offers genuine screen presence suitably aided by a talented young cast including an excellent Fernando Tielve.   Edwardo Norwiega as the conflicted Jacinto is also perfectly sleazy.  I’ll admit the more political undertones went over my head, but certainly add some depth to proceedings, and the plight of the Orphanage occupants during impeding war and bloodshed made the supernatural elements all the more effective.  I did however have issues with how soon the ghost child appeared on screen, and also the ending came with more of a whimper than a raw, wrapping things up a little too neatly when I felt it should have gone for the jugular.

Compared to similar themed movies like El Orfanato and Pan’s Labyrinth, I came away less satisfied and overall a little disappointed.

Verdict:  3 /5

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