Here I was, thinking I’ve seen all the good horror movies, when this thing pops up.
The Devil’s Backbone, or El Espinazo del Diablo, is a movie by Guillermo del Toro.
I have a weird relationship with Guillermo, I feel like I should like his movies, I love his themes, visuals and sincere passion for intelligent horror, but for some reason none of his movies hit home with me. Pan’s Labyrinth had some amazing visuals, and the second viewing was certainly better for me, but I felt something was missing.
The Devil’s Backbone is in a lot of ways similar to Pan’s Labyrinth, a horror movie set in the Spanish civil war (a struggle that adds, in a sad way, to the list of similarities between Greece and Spain), from a kid’s point of view.
The Devil’s Backbone is set in an orphanage/refuge/school that is run by people helping the Republican side. The setting is perfectly isolated, perhaps in a way that mirrors a country during a civil war, with an unexploded bomb (presumably defused) still planted in the middle of the courtyard, serving as a reminder that the war is very much here.
Even though I usually find that the scariest ghosts are the ones that have no motives, no moral lesson to give, no way to be pacified are the ones that are more effective for me, I was pleasantly (or uncomfortably) surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie.
You see, The Devil’s Backbone is most certainly a ghost story, but it is also a movie about war, not at all a war movie mind you, but for the children the war is as inexplicable, as illogical and in the same way scary as a ghost story.
What the movie does in a sense, is use the supernatural element to induce the same feelings and emotions to the audience that the children characters feel about the war. It was very allegorical in a lot of ways.
The cover was also kickass.