THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE-Mexico/Spain-2001

Eduardo Noriega as Jacinto

Marisa Paredes (w/Federico Luppi) as Carmen

Federico Luppi as Dr. Casares

Directed by Guillermo del Toro

Written by Guillermo del Toro, Antonio Trashorras and David Muñoz

The entire time that I was watching The Devil’s Backbone I kept thinking to myself ‘I know there’s a metaphor for war in there somewhere.’ I mean, a movie that features a dropped-from-the-sky-unexploded-in-the-middle-of-an-orpahanage-courtyard bomb has got to be making some kind of statement about war, right? The only thing is that I am one of the most metaphorically challenged people on the planet. I’ll get it eventually; just not at the moment.

So, I figured the best way to approach the movie was from the point of view of it being quite a frightening little ghost story. Bingo! Guillermo del Toro’s tale of a young boy and a vengeful ghost set in an orphanage in the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War is as downright scary a film as you are ever likely to see. The best thing is that Del Toro layers the suspense on slowly; taking his time and allowing us to digest each scene and each scare as an individual moment instead of a bombardment of jump scenes. There is a style to this film that is unlike any that I’ve seen in quite some time. The only other movie that comes to mind that features such a slow build of frights is Takashi Miike’s disturbing ode to a woman scorned, Audition.

Guillermo del Toro has stated that The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth are of a male and female companion piece to one another. I’ve never watched the latter film; but if it is anywhere near as satisfying as The Devil’s Backbone, then I cannot wait.


Was strongly inspired by the director’s personal memories, especially his relationship with his uncle, who supposedly came back as a ghost.
The design of the ghost was inspired by the white-faced spirits of Japanese horror films like Ringu.
The film’s title refers to the medical condition of spina bifida.