El Espinazo Del Diablo [The Devil’s Backbone] (2001)

(On DVD, May 2003) Cool little historical ghost story that may take a second viewing to fully appreciate. While the pacing may be slower than usual for a horror film, the strength and interest of the characters, coupled with some really good direction and cinematography, is more than than enough to make this a quirky little gem. A ghost story where the ghosts are victims and the real monsters aren’t ghosts, The Devil’s Backbone takes us back to an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War: But don’t worry; this isn’t a lesson in politics, and the relationships between the kids and adults abandoned in the middle of the Spanish desert soon grab our interest. The DVD will do wonders to enhance your enjoyment of the film, as it features a wonderful English-language commentary track with director Guillermo del Toro. His passion for the material clearly shows, and his explanations of the material (whose symbolism and setting may be unfamiliar to contemporary American audiences) are well worth listening to. Good little unpretentious horror film, with plenty of neat touches. Maybe a little slow, but well worth an attentive viewing or two.

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