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Customer reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Devil's Backbone [DVD] [2001]
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on 26 July 2017
A good classic creeper. not very scary whatsoever, but fun to watch it unfold.
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on 27 June 2017
A good film Worth the money.
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on 24 June 2002
A beautifully shot film contrasting the bright white landscapes surrounding the orphanage with the foreboding almost gothic corridors and rooms inside. Superbly acted by both adults AND children alike (Del Torro obviously knows how to select his actors and get their best performances) and very well produced. If you know anyone adverse to watching subtitled/foreign films then this is the one that will break them because the story and subject matter simply overcome the language barrier. A truely gripping piece of cinema that begins with one simple(?!) question "What is a ghost?..." By the end of this film you will be asking yourself that same question over and over.
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VINE VOICEon 2 March 2017
But unlike Pan's Labyrinth is set during the Civil War where the children are sent into a school in the desert to live and learn. The 'One that Sighs' is a boy who has been murdered so Carlos sets out to find out who did it.

The SFX are brilliant and the acting is good. There is a nasty surprise though in store. Jacinth who has been there for 15 years is now a Man and he is determined to get away from the School. He is engaged to Conchita.
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on 8 March 2009
Most reviews I've read compare this to Pan's Labyrinth and find it wanting, well this isn't as good.
A lot are comparing it to their favourite ghost stories and say that it isn't as scary or as fast paced, maybe not.
But most films don't compare to Pan's Labyrinth and horror templates mean horror cliches, this is a film in it's own right and I think it's well worth four stars.
The packaging led me to expect a dark horror with jumps and guts etc, what I found was a film that revolves around a ghost but also around characters and backstory. The ghost of Santi is realised beautifully; he is a disturbing presence even when his true nature is revealed, he doesn't change from scary to benevolent as is the norm in this situation, and visually he is quite original, the bubbles and drifting blood are a great touch. So what is normally the weakest point of any horror is pulled off with aplomb.
As for the other characters, most are children, and their acting is excellent, I can't remember one weak link and the main actor - Fernando Tielve - makes the film. His face shows a level of emotion that should embarass adult actors, and none of it is forced or parodied.
Marisa Paredes as Carmen is also fascinating and slightly disturbing. Is she a hurt soul looking for love? Is she callous and manipulative? Nope, she's just real.
The look is quite unique as well, I can't think of many (any?) "spooky" films that are mostly highly lit and take place in daytime, bright spanish daytime at that. Even the dormitory and cellar where all the horror action takes place are reasonably bright, no film making crutches used here.
However, the pacing is slightly odd. The scenes are cut in such a way that it lurches from horror to domesticity to politics to emotional dialogue and back again in a way that doesn't allow any of the moods to build.
Personally, I quite enjoyed this because it removes the stock devices of mood manipulation used by directors and editors which force you to feel one way or the other. In this way the strengths of the story stand on their own. I can appreciate though that this would lessen the film for some, if you like to be in pant-wetting terror for an hour and a half then you might give this a miss.
So, it isn't as good, or as original as Pan's Labyrinth. But for a ghost story it's not overly derivative and has a feel of it's own.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 January 2009
Guillermo del Toro is currently known as the guy who made the Oscar-winning "Pan's Labyrinth," the "Hellboy" movies, and is going to direct "The Hobbit."

But way back in in 2001, del Toro made a movie that serves as a sport of ghost-story prequel to "Pan's Labyrinth." With its mysterious specter, innocent hero and a story set during a bloody civil war, "The Devil's Backbone" is a unique kind of horror movie -- it deftly sidesteps the cheap tricks and scares that most ghost stories employ.

Unaware that his father has been killed, Carlos (Fernando Tielve) thinks that he's being left at a remote orphanage only temporarily.

Kindly Dr. Casares (Federico Luppi) sympathizes with the lonely new boy, but Carlos soon is distracted from his troubles. He keeps seeing shadows, footprints and falling pitchers -- and when he wanders down into the vaulted cellar, he catches a glimpse of a silent ghost with a bleeding head wound. Even worse, the ghost -- which was a boy named Santi -- informs him that many people there will die.

But the most dangerous one at the orphanage is the brutal former-orphan Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), who is searching for a cache of hidden gold. As Carlos tries to figure out how Santi died -- and what angry, miserable Jaime (Íñigo Garcés) has to do with it -- the orphanage is suddenly turned into an explosive war zone. As Dr. Casares tries to protect the remaining boys, Carlos discovers the reason Santi died -- and what he wants now.

"The Devil's Backbone" is a movie filled with death: the orphanage is a dying institution in a time of war, filled with orphans and surrounded by sun-burnt grass. It even has a defused torpedo stuck right in the middle of the courtyard. By the time the ghost shows up, it seems like almost a natural part of such a ruined, quietly sorrowful place.

Fortunately Guillermo del Toro avoids cheap scares -- the ghost doesn't make weird noises or leap out at Carlos for no reason. Instead he evokes the fear of a child in a dark, creaky old house who is ABSOLUTELY CERTAIN that there's something out there. Also some beautifully creepy visuals, such as blood floating in the air as if it were in water.

But the whole creepy-ghostly-factor is eclipsed about halfway through the movie. After a slow buildup of tension, everything suddenly erupts when Jacinto suddenly reveals his true self. Suddenly we've got explosions, blood, shattered glass, mangled bodies and an all-too human enemy who is slowly closing in. It makes the ghostly Santi seem suddenly very... nonthreatening.

And though the plot seems simple, del Toro spins a spiderweb of interconnected hints and plot threads -- comic books, slug collections, a wooden leg and blood-tinged water all come into play. There's loads of symbolism, and the beautiful scenes (Dr. Casares' final poetry recital to Carmen) are handled just as powerfully as the more gory, ghastly ones (the orphans' final assault).

It's kind of amazing that this was Tielve's movie debut, because he's simply incredible -- his character slides through fear, courage, sorrow and confusion, all with a kind of unshakable innocence. Garcés is equally good; at first he seems like a mere bully, but we gradually see how troubled and guilty he feels over what happened to Santi. Noriega is thoroughly nasty as a greedy, sociopathic thug who cares about nobody except himself (even his fiancee), while Luppi is a kindly, cultured old man who obviously loves the boys as if they were his own.

"The Devil's Backbone" is a haunting kind of ghost story, where the ghost is not the scariest thing you'll see. A powerful, striking movie.
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on 21 August 2017
Excellent story, intelligently crafted by a director who continues to make you rethink the genre. Loved it.
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on 30 March 2017
Love Del Toro and this doesn't disappoint. Very sad in places.
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on 18 August 2017
A very deep story and not for easy watching but good
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on 12 April 2017
Great Film
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