The Devil's Backbone

October 31
The Devil’s Backbone
(Mexico, 2001, 106 minutes)
The Devil’s Backbone is a Horror/Suspense Drama set in 1939 Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Del Toro uses a recurring theme in his films – a pre-teen child is left fatherless and placed in a difficult, isolated situation. Carlos, a 12-year old boy whose father was killed in the war, arrives at a boys’ orphanage.  He encounters a ghost, a former occupant named Santi. Santi gloomily tells Carlos that, “Many of you will die.” To make this prediction seem more plausible, an unexploded bomb has fallen in the courtyard of the orphanage, and it stands like an evil monument, ticking away. The bomb seems to have a heart and a mind of its own. But it is not the most terrifying threat. The slow pace of the story and the throbbing soundtrack help build the tension and terror – there is an ominous, unsettling undertone of uncertainty. Although this film is genuinely “creepy”, it is also very human, with vivid and honest acting performances.  Fernando Tielve (Carlos) won the Young Artist award in 2002 for the Best Young Actor in an International Film. The Devil’s Backbone is an excellent companion to the other Halloween film, as it was described by Guillmero del Toro as being a sibling film to Pan’s Labyrinth (this being the masculine "brother" film, and Pan's as the feminine "sister" film.)