As Guillermo Del Toro films go The Devils Backbone
is a defining moment in his career, breaching the gap between International Art House and mainstream Hollywood success, it being his last film before Blade 2
. Based within an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s, the film is driven by its characters and, just like his previous films (Cronos
), it draws on the supernatural to outline and re-define exactly what it is that drives them.
Although Del Toro insists that this is not a film about the Civil War, by trapping and threatening its inhabitants the orphanage inevitably becomes a mirror for the events outside. These four walls become a place of protection for boys who have been orphaned during the war, a place for them to lead a relatively normal existence full of school life, bullying and adventure. Their main source of the latter being Santi, a young ghost who haunts the halls looking for revenge for his recent murder. Yet the pivotal character who evokes real fear in the children is not the spirit, but the greedy, selfish Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), a former orphan, whose experiences have left him with deep emotional scars. With a strong cast and even stronger imagery (created by cinematographer Guillermo Navarro) Del Toro whips up a hauntingly effective film about love, life and the afterlife.
On the DVD: entering the extras literally through the keyhole, there are several opportunities to obtain a deeper understanding of this disturbing film. A "Behind the Scenes" featurette includes the casts own character profiles and interpretation of the story, as well as Del Toro explaining his thoughts about the film and how he achieved some shots. Two of the sequences"Aerial Bombardment" and "The Ghost"--can be seen in further technical detail, with film footage and computer animation combined to make a whole scene. A selection of storyboards can also be viewed which run alongside the soundtrack to the scene, with the option to intercut between storyboard and finished film. A theatrical trailer, a picture gallery and written biographies are standard. The film and additional features are in Spanish with English subtitles and menu. With Dolby 5:1 sound and a widescreen picture, the film not only looks and sounds, but also feels fantastically chilling. --Nikki Disney
United Kingdom released, Blu-Ray/Region B DVD: LANGUAGES: Spanish ( Dolby Digital 5.1 ), Spanish ( Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio ), English ( Subtitles ), WIDESCREEN (1.78:1), SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the scenes, Commentary, Featurette, Interactive Menu, Scene Access, Special Edition, Storyboards, Trailer(s), SYNOPSIS: From acclaimed Mexican horror maestro, Guillermo Del Toro, comes The Devil's Backbone, a truly terrifying spine-tingler combining state of the art special effects with towering performances from a combination of Latin legends (Federico Luppi and Marisa Paredes) and younger stars (Eduardo Noriega, from Alejandro Amenabar's Open Your Eyes). A deliciously dark horror, The Devil's Backbone tells the tale of a remote Spanish orphanage during the final days of The Spanish Civil War whose young inhabitants are brutally terrorised by Santi, a decomposing spirit who stalks the building's dark decaying hallways. But, as the film builds to a grisly, explosive finale, the children learn the true story of Santi's death and rise up to vow a deadly vengeance on his vicious murderer. Produced by Pedro Almodovar and brilliantly photographed for maximum suspence by leading cinematographer Guillermo Navarra, The Devil's Backbone is a truly haunting, memorable ghost story. SCREENED/AWARDED AT: Goya Awards, ...The Devil's Backbone ( El espinazo del diablo ) ( The Devil's Back bone ) (Blu-Ray)