Sony Pictures Classics | Release Date: November 21, 2001
8.7
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Universal acclaim based on 105 Ratings
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Positive:
95
Mixed:
5
Negative:
5
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9
Bugger217Sep 3, 2017
A fascinating examination of youth during wartime, specifically a group of orphans during the final days of the Spanish Civil War. In classic Guillermo del Toro fashion, the movie is somewhat of a fairy tale, masquerading as a ghost story toA fascinating examination of youth during wartime, specifically a group of orphans during the final days of the Spanish Civil War. In classic Guillermo del Toro fashion, the movie is somewhat of a fairy tale, masquerading as a ghost story to dive deeper into the movie's rich themes. Gorgeously shot and wonderfully performed, The Devil's Backbone is a devastatingly beautiful film. Expand
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8
SpangleDec 27, 2016
Set in a Spanish orphanage with the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, The Devil's Backbone is very much a Guillermo del Toro film. Combining the destruction of innocence as a result of violence and abandonment with a political allegorySet in a Spanish orphanage with the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War, The Devil's Backbone is very much a Guillermo del Toro film. Combining the destruction of innocence as a result of violence and abandonment with a political allegory regarding the Civil War, del Toro knows how to make a film. Billed as a horror film, The Devil's Backbone takes yet another page of the del Toro playbook by using a creepy atmosphere and elements of horror (such as ghosts) to tell a story that is not intended to scare you. Akin to later works such as Pan's Labyrinth, Crimson Peak, or The Orphange (which he produced), The Devil's Backbone explores larger topics through the use of this atmosphere and things often used in horror films. Here, del Toro comments on the Spanish Civil War. With strict and cruel leaders in charge, the abandoned children are on their own with limited movement and food. Yet, they are able to use their numbers, determination, and minds to overcome their oppressors.

With a creepy atmosphere, del Toro is able to create a film that plays on childish fears and misunderstandings. Largely told through Carlos (Fernando Tielve), a newly orphaned child, the film features a childlike sense of wonder and confusion at his newfound living situation. This confusion leads to fear and incredible tension that the film is able to utilize in introducing its ghost. With a good build-up with multiple bumps in the night, the film's horror elements work well, even if the film itself is never overtly scary. Had this not been a del Toro film, I would have been on pins and needles expecting a malevolent being to be haunting this orphanage. This is certainly a credit to him and the atmosphere he is able to conjure up in this film. The ghost itself has great special effects and looks the part. He adds a mystery element to this film as you begin to wonder how he came to be, but as it typical for del Toro, the explanation involves a great atrocity that had gone under-the-radar and been forgotten.

Politically, The Devil's Backbone finds its greatest success. Creating a parallel between the struggles of the orphans and the pains of the Spaniards under Franco, the film highlights the authoritarian nature of Franco through the oppression of the children. Abandoned and left to fend for themselves, Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega) is an intimidating figure of the children. Having injured Carlos and willing to commit atrocities in the name of gold, Jacinto is a man who was once an orphan, but has become a truly evil man. Representing Franco while the kids represent the Spaniards, del Toro shows how the country came together and, even if they were weaker and smaller, used their camaraderie and numbers to overcome their oppressor. In this way, The Devil's Backbone transcends the horror genre and instead becomes a piece of political commentary and represents del Toro's fantastical view of the Spanish Civil War through the eyes of children. In a way, this introduces themes and ideas he later revisited in Pan's Labyrinth, which I believe to be a stronger film. However, as a companion piece, The Devil's Backbone is undeniably powerful and yet another great work by del Toro.

Acting-wise, the film is impressive. For so many child actors, the acting is The Devil's Backbone is of an incredibly high quality. The entirety of the cast nails their respective roles and the kids bring an incredible authenticity to their roles. At all times, you believe they are going through this situation and are forced to deal with the agony of the terror surrounding them. They are able to approach the situation with the innocence and sense of imagination of a child, creating methods of coping that obscure what is actually occurring (the comics). However, in saying that, watching their innocence be shattered by the peril they face is tragic and thoroughly impactful.

Not really a horror film, The Devil's Backbone is more a fantastical exploration of the Spanish Civil War through political allegory and the eyes of children. A tragic and often hard to watch film, The Devil's Backbone shows the destruction of innocence at the hands of tyranny and the violence needed to overcome that authority. Powerful, poignant, and atmospheric, The Devil's Backbone once again demonstrates that nobody does child-like wonder blended with violence like Guillermo del Toro.
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10
ugisupriatnaJun 21, 2014
Del Toro's brilliantly combined a humanist ghost story with ornament of history of wartime and politic allegory, makes "The Devil's Backbone" not only creepy and haunting, but also elegant, beautiful, and dramatic, This film is deservedDel Toro's brilliantly combined a humanist ghost story with ornament of history of wartime and politic allegory, makes "The Devil's Backbone" not only creepy and haunting, but also elegant, beautiful, and dramatic, This film is deserved become one of the best modern horror film ever made. Expand
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8
HalfwelshmanMar 18, 2012
The Devil's Backbone is a thematically rich, extremely well-performed and spooky ghost story. The film keeps you engaged throughout, and its very easy to get involved with, and to care about the characters. Fernando Tielve's Carlos makes forThe Devil's Backbone is a thematically rich, extremely well-performed and spooky ghost story. The film keeps you engaged throughout, and its very easy to get involved with, and to care about the characters. Fernando Tielve's Carlos makes for a decent protagonist, Inigo Garces' Jaime, Eduardo Noriega's Jacinto and Marisa Paredes' Carmen are all complex, well-developed characters. Federico Luppi is also great as the story's narrator and philosophical anchor, Dr Casares. Like all good tales of horror, the real scares are not to be found in the on-screen chills (of which there are many) but in what the creepy imagery represents. Yes, the film is about a ghost haunting an orphanage, but really it's about loss of innocence, the futility and horrors of war and the lives it ruins. Though writer/director Guillermo del Toro is Mexican, the subject of his film, the Spanish Civil War, is clearly very personal to him. This can be seen especially when the film is viewed as only one half of a bigger idea (del Toro has stated that he sees the film as a sibling film to Pan's Labyrinth, and this is easy to see with both films using the Spanish Civil War to comment on the brutality of the real world, one through horror and the other through fantasy). The only real drawback to the film (speaking from an English-speaking perspective) is the clunky, out-of-sync English subtitles that appear to be attached to all non-Spanish releases of the film. I can understand del Toro's apparent frustration, and his decision to personally oversee the translation of his next Spanish-language project, Pan's Labyrinth - the subtitles are jarring, distracting, and bordering on annoying. Luckily, when a film is this rich and multi-faceted, even such a major drawback does not work to the utter detriment of the viewing experience as a whole. The Devil's Backbone remains a thoughtful, memorable human drama with a consistent creepy atmosphere and some incredibly dark thematic subtext. It's a great film on its own terms, but when viewed along with its "sister" piece Pan's Labyrinth its nothing short of superb. Expand
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8
RegOzFeb 9, 2012
This is a great movie! Engaging, rich in symbolism, frightful and clever, this movie does not rely in gore to create an intense feeling of mystery and anxiety. Eduardo Noriega's performance deserves applauses. The 'ghosts' here are not such,This is a great movie! Engaging, rich in symbolism, frightful and clever, this movie does not rely in gore to create an intense feeling of mystery and anxiety. Eduardo Noriega's performance deserves applauses. The 'ghosts' here are not such, at least not in the stereotypical 'ghost film'. The Devil's Backbone has a great script, powerful scenes, and manages to be thrilling without the need to recur to tasteless and extreme resources. Moreover, this film, has the perfect balance, because it manages to create tension with the idea of the 'unknown' and delves into the dark side of human nature; yet, the the Devil's Backbone doesn't lack the emotional element for it is unfolded during the whole movie. Collapse
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9
bigbosslunaJan 30, 2012
So good. Not that scary but doesn't matter because is one of the greatest stories ever told. It has the greatest characters in a scary movie (more of a fable). Interesting in so many ways.
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7
ERG1008Sep 3, 2010
Ghost story set in a school/orphanage during the Spanish Civil War.
As you'd expect with del Toro, it's beautifully shot & almost fairytale like. Eerie & brutal in parts & certainly much better than the over-rated Pan's Labyrinth.
Some bits
Ghost story set in a school/orphanage during the Spanish Civil War.
As you'd expect with del Toro, it's beautifully shot & almost fairytale like. Eerie & brutal in parts & certainly much better than the over-rated Pan's Labyrinth.
Some bits reminded me of the first Silent Hill game back on the PS1.
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9
BillS.Apr 13, 2006
An atmospheric wonder of a film. Del Toro uses horror to enhance the film, rather than making it the film. The characters are engaging, and the symbolism is rich. One in a recent line of smart horror films (Sixth Sense, The Others) that An atmospheric wonder of a film. Del Toro uses horror to enhance the film, rather than making it the film. The characters are engaging, and the symbolism is rich. One in a recent line of smart horror films (Sixth Sense, The Others) that hopefully signals a resurgence of an almost lost genre. Buy this, don't rent it. Expand
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