The Devil's Backbone Review
So there’s your warning. But once you get into The Devil’s Backbone, you will find an amazing film - part charming, part terrifying, and part moving. I’ve never really seen a movie like it, and I instantly fell in love with the surprising plot.
The Devil’s Backbone is a ghost story from Guillermo del Toro. The movie is quite similar to Pan’s Labyrinth in several ways. I was going to write a review on Pan’s Labyrinth last week instead, but after seeing The Devil’s Backbone, I instantly changed my mind. This movie is far underrated, and in my mind superior to Pan’s Labyrinth.
The Devil’s Backbone is most impressive for taking so many various plot points and making them all work. The movie takes place at a small boarding school in Spain, during a Spanish civil war. There’s a defused bomb that sits motionless in the middle of the school. A ghost of a missing child seems to haunt the grounds. There are traitors with various agendas working at the school… and all the while the war front is pushing forward.
All of this should seemingly add up to a storytelling mess, but The Devil’s Backbone somehow makes it all work in a powerful manner. Much of this has to do with a huge twist that occurs in the middle of the film. I won’t say any more, but it definitely took me by surprise and shifted my idea of where the movie was headed.
And on top of everything, you really care for each character in The Devil’s Backbone. Even small, insignificant ones are given certain traits and quirks that will make you feel like you’re a part of this boarding school. Nobody is pigeonholed into one set character type - they all have depth and feelings hidden below the surface.
In case you can’t tell, I love The Devil’s Backbone. It’s a fantastic movie that is more than just a standard “ghost story.” It is a movie about characters, relationships, warfare, greed, and loss. It’s a movie that works best when you don’t know what to expect. And with that in mind, I won’t say anymore. Go watch this movie - you’ll be glad you did.