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The Devil's Backbone

Movie Details

The Devil
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Date: 2001-11-21 Nationwide
  • Running Time: 106 min.
  • Director: Guillermo del Toro
  • Cast: Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Inigo Garces, Fernando Tielve
  • Producer: Rosa Bosch
  • Writer: Guillermo del Toro
  • Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics

Recovering from his compromised stint at the helm of Miramax's Mimic, Mexican horror director Guillermo Del Toro went the independent route, hooking up with producers Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar for this period thriller. (And now he's back in the U.S. to put the finishing touches on Blade 2.) The film's atmospherics are inseparable from its creepy setting: a decrepit orphanage for boys whose parents have been killed in the Spanish Civil War, which rages outside. Under extremely trying circumstances, the head doctor (Federico Luppi) tries to keep his wits about him--which means resisting the superstitious view that, besides offering protection from the chaos of the war, the orphanage may also be home to a ghost. For the film's first half, Del Toro conjures a swirling air of mystery and ambiguity. However, this dissipates once the level of gore increases, and the school's caretaker emerges as a villain. (The orange-tinged cinematography looks fantastic throughout, though.) In the end, The Devil's Backbone doesn't seem to know whether it's a Gothic ghost story, a Marxist allegory about the Spanish Civil War, a coming-of-age tale, or a portrait of loss and grief--and winds up being none of the above. (Steve Erickson)

Steve Erickson

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