The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del diablo)
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Guillermo del Toro, who quickly became one of the most talked-about directors in contemporary horror films with his first two features, Chronos and Mimic, takes on a more subtle tale of terror with this psychological suspense piece. Casares (Federico Luppi) and Carmen (Marisa Paredes) operate a small home for orphans in a remote part of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Helping the couple mind the orphanage are Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), the groundskeeper, and Conchita (Irene Visedo), a teacher who is also involved with Jacinto. Casares and Carmen are aligned with the Republican loyalists,… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Del Toro's elegant pacing and gothic touches imbue the proceedings with a cool mystery."
‑ Bruce Diones, New Yorker
"An entertaining and atmospheric revenge tale."
‑ Martin Rubin, Chicago Reader
"What Del Toro provides with The Devil's Backbone is the recognition that evil exists within the most routine of circumstances. That knowledge is as old as humanity's belief in the fantastic, and just as powerful."
‑ Serena Donadoni, Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
"This moody ghost story follows generally familiar lines despite its unusual historical setting, but it's imaginatively filmed and builds a sense of brooding emotional power."
‑ David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor
"Pure, uncut del Toro. The filmmaker accomplishes riveting scenes of suspense and scares he honestly come by, sticking the landing of every effect he attempts. [Blu-ray]"
‑ Peter Canavese, Groucho Reviews
"It's a horror flick, and a creepily good one, that also functions as an allegory of the war that still haunts Spain seven decades later."
‑ Joe Morgenstern, Wall Street Journal
"If only for its technical aspects, this would rate as a pleasurably superior supernatural psychological thriller, with polished but subtle special effects, painterly, atmospheric cinematography and vivid performances."
‑ Geoff Andrew, Time Out
"You may find that images from this movie clamber back into your memory weeks after you see it, and give your spine a chill."
‑ Michael Sragow, Baltimore Sun
"The Devil's Backbone augments its abundant creepiness with an equally powerful poignancy."
‑ Nathan Rabin, AV Club
"...a hopelessly erratic piece of work."
‑ David Nusair, Reel Film Reviews
"Though it fails in its final reels to capitalize on its early promise, pic is still stylish, accomplished and tremendously enjoyable fare."
‑ Jonathan Holland, Variety
"A well-crafted, white-knuckle cinematic journey."
‑ , Chicago Tribune
"Though the whodunnit takes a fairly predictable course, the Spanish Civil War background adds powerful narrative and symbolic weight, while the striking imagery is simply poetic."
‑ Andrew Collins, Radio Times
"an elegant, emotionally fraught ghost story"
‑ James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk
"Blending terror with tenderness, Guillermo Del Toro has crafted something both traditional and original: a sun-kissed gothic horror."
‑ , Total Film
More reviews for The Devil's Backbone on Rotten Tomatoes

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