Devil’s Backbone

Movie Review by Dr Kuma

Starring: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, inigo Garces
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Any fans of Del Toro’s last Hollywood movie MIMIC should best stay away from this film, as they will find it a little on the long side. However, those of you who like your horror to be well shot, atmospheric, inspired and most importantly, frightening, then this is the film for you.

Although very similar in tempo to the excellent THE OTHERS, this is a movie that could never have been made in Hollywood or England for that matter. It truly is one of a kind and will no doubt be very popular with those who enjoyed KRONOS.

The story revolves around sinister goings on at the Santa Lucia School during the last days of the Spanish Civil War. The school is a cold and imposing building in the middle of the arid countryside. Dust storms as opposed to mist roll around its decaying squalid walls. The school is a haven sheltering orphans of the Republican militia and others who have no one left in the world – or should I say this world. The war in the near distance is a backdrop to the horrors that erupt within the walls of the school. Only a stray unexploded bomb is evidence of life on the outside for these children and they look up to it with the same curiosity as the Neanderthals had towards the monolith at the beginning of 2001. Terrified the it holds the power to destroy them all, but touching it to feel its power, saying that the bomb has a heart and that they can hear it ticking, ready to explode. Strangely it is everything around the bomb that explodes causing chaos and destruction. The bomb is merely a dead reminder of the night that strange things began to happen…

Although the film builds slowly, showing the growing relationship between the main character of Carlos (Fernando Tielve) and the school bully with a heart Jaime (inigo Garces) – both excellent – it introduces the supernatural aspects of the film almost immediately. Although we see a shadow running around the underground pool at the school in a similar fashion to the dwarf in DON’T LOOK BACK, it takes little time from then on for Carlos and ourselves to see it in all it’s horror. The ghost itself is so well represented that each time we see it we are un-nerved.

The entire cast in this very unusual piece of cinema is excellent. Federico Luppi as the old professor Casares is especially convincing, but the others in the cast, Merisa Paredes as Carmen, Irene Visedo as Conchita and Eduardo Noriega as the caretaker are all excellent.

This really is a film unlike anything you will see this year. To give you an idea of what to expect, take elements of LORD OF THE FLIES, a civil war movie of your choice and mix it up with a dose of gothic horror.

The Ghost of the piece is called Santi. Although on release over the Christmas period, don’t confuse this with seasonal fair. This film is as dark as they come and should please those who like a good ghost story over Yuletide.

To give you a taste of what to expect, here’s a snippet of the opening and closing, decisive voice over:
“What is a Ghost?
An emotion, a terrible moment condemned to repeat itself over and over? An instant of pain perhaps? Something dead which appears at times alive. A sentiment suspended in time..like a blurred photograph..like an insect trapped in amber.”

Hard to believe that Del Toro’s next movie is BLADE 2! Lets hope it’s as sharp and as cutting as this.

5 out of 6 stars

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