|The Devils Backbone|
El Espinazo del Diablo|
dir Guillermo Del Toro
scr Guillermo Del Toro, Antonio Trashorras, David Muņoz
with Eduardo Noriega, Marisa Paredes, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Iņigo Garces, Irene Visedo, Berta Ojea, Francisco Maestre, Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Junio Valverde
release UK 30.Nov.01; US Nov.01 sliff
Set in an isolated school for orphans of the Spanish Civil War, this eerie thriller grabs hold of us and never lets go. We watch the action from the perspective of the boys, who all know that the school is haunted. They've seen the ghost, and some suspect who it is. But it's up to new student Carlos (Tielve) to uncover the whole truth as he stands up to the stern headmistress (Paredes), the helpful doctor (Luppi) and the tough-guy handyman (Noriega) ... not to mention the school bully (Garces).
Del Toro holds us in his spell for the entire film, building a stunningly creepy atmosphere in the earthy, remote location. Very nice special effects work combines with expert make-up and a richly detailed production design to add to the tension and suspense. While the cast all deliver completely believable, compelling performances as imperfect people caught in an extraordinary situation. Interestingly, the plot has plenty of suspense and dread even without the ghost story element, as it spins into a kind of wartime Lord of the Flies, then shifts into a cautionary tale of greed. It's quite simply the scariest and cleverest ghost thriller since, erm, The Others (another Spanish film!). And there's much more to it than that.
|"This is quite simply the best film I have ever seen. Truly a beautiful work. It's even better than 'The Others' since it is not merely a ghost story, but an allegory as well." --Jj, net 30.Dec.01|