The Devil’s Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo)

Sony Pictures Classics

“The devil’s backbone. Children who should never have been born.”


The Devil’s Backbone, set in the final year of the Spanish Civil War, stars Marisa Paredes (Carmen) and Federico Luppi (Dr. Casares) as two lifelong companions running a home for orphans in a remote part of Spain.  When newcomer Carlos (played by Fernando Tielve) arrives, he discovers the orphanage is haunted and inadvertently sets in motion a chain of events that will leave no one unchanged.

Sony Pictures Classics

The film, while peppered with director Guillermo del Toro‘s signature plays on light and dark, references to Spanish folklore and superstition, is at heart a film about desire.  The orphans want to be wanted, needed, loved.  In the absence of this, they long to be cared for or simply, to be fed.  Instead, they are emaciated, both emotionally and physically.

Sony Pictures Classics

Dr. Casares (Luppi), effectively a surrogate father to many of the orphans, pines for a woman he has loved for more than 20 years, Carmen (Paredes), but whom does not love him in return.  And Carmen, in the absence of her husband, despite the passions of Dr. Casares, longs for physical connection and shares a bed with a young man named Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega).  Jacinto, a former resident of the orphanage, desires only the money – gold ingots – he believes is stashed within the walls of the orphanage’s kitchen.

Talk about a soap opera … but it works.  After all, it is the want and desire of these characters that ultimately drives the plot while simultaneously causing their downfall.

Sony Pictures Classics

I could go on and on about The Devil’s Backbone mostly because little else is quite as awesome as a well conceived, well executed and stylish period horror film.  As much a drama as it is a horror film, The Devil’s Backbone is a bonafide ghost story, complete with a fantastically original vision that will haunt you.  Elegant, and thoughtful, The Devil’s Backbone is a poignant film not only about the horrors of life during wartime, but also the rawness and fragility of a life spent wanting.


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Wiki facts: The Devil’s Backbone

Is The Devil’s Backbone rotten or fresh?

Watch or buy The Devil’s Backbone on Amazon


2 responses to “The Devil’s Backbone (El Espinazo del Diablo)

  1. Pingback: The List to End All Horror Film Lists « celluloid junkie·

  2. Pingback: Pet Sematary « celluloid junkie·

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