The Devil’s Backbone (2001)

The Devil's Backbone

The Devil’s Backbone Review

The Devil’s Backbone is a 2001 Spanish-Mexican drama horror film directed by Guillermo del Toro and it is one of the director’s most acclaimed works.

It is set in a badly operated orphanage and it follows an orphan boy during the Spanish Civil War. The story itself is very well written and it is such a dramatic movie. It is professionally scripted and it is emotionally resonant. However, my major issue with it is that it is not a horror film. It is just not that. It has a ghost and some horror elements, but it is mostly just a straight drama and I can’t understand how anyone would classify this as a horror film. My second issue with the plot itself is that it lacks focus and with too many characters in here, it doesn’t quite know which one to follow and the whole movie somehow doesn’t know its identity and never establishes it unfortunately.

The characters are well developed. Carlos is such a likable kid and your really root for him. The sequence near the beginning where he is left in the orphanage is just so devastating to witness. And the other kids are all really well depicted with Jaime being the most memorable. Carmen is great and Jacinto is such a menacing creation, but it is Casares who is the standout of the adults and the scene with him and Carmen near the end is such a heartbreaking scene.

The acting is also really good and professional. Eduardo Noriega is quite good and Marisa Paredes is fine as well, but again it is Federico Luppi who shines the most in a difficult role and he is the highlight.

It is a technically polished work, as expected from the director. The cinematography is really good and although the scenery isn’t as memorable as in his other films, it is still quite good. The costumes are good, the acting is great and the direction is superb. It is also a really well paced movie and never boring or too fast. It is also a smart film and really well executed overall with the action being really well done. I wished to see more dialogue in it, but it is visually arresting with some incredibly moving scenes not just emotionally but also in looks. It really is such an emotional movie.

The Devil’s Backbone is never scary and it isn’t particularly atmospheric which was a big problem for me. Not only is it not a horror film as everyone says it is, but those rare horror moments aren’t particularly memorable and the dramatic moments are much better realized. The ghost is an interesting creation and the final sequence with him is terrific, but he was still a lost potential and never properly explored or executed.

But it is a sophisticated and well crafted film that is undoubtedly the director’s best early effort and much better than both ‘Cronos‘ and ‘Mimic‘. It has his signature style and professional approach to it, but it is still miles away from the quality of his future ‘Pan’s Labyrinth‘, but it is still an evident progress for him.

The Devil’s Backbone is very well acted and directed with fine characters, great visuals, some memorable sequences and evident emotional resonance. It isn’t a horror film and the horror elements aren’t as good as the dramatic ones, but it is still the director’s best early effort and overall a very well crafted movie.

My Rating – 4

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Interior & Exterior Stills from┬áThe Devil’s Backbone

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Posted in Drama, Foreign, Horror, Mexican, MOVIE REVIEWS, Spanish and tagged , , , , , .

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