The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del diablo)


The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del diablo)

Critics Consensus

Creepily atmospheric and haunting, The Devil's Backbone is both a potent ghost story and an intelligent political allegory.



Total Count: 119


Audience Score

User Ratings: 35,056
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Movie Info

The mournful fable of the Santa Lucia School during the last days of the Spanish Civil War. An imposing stone building set on a desolate plateau, the school shelters the orphans of the Republican militia and politicians, and other abandoned children. Upon his arrival at Santa Lucia, 10-year-old Carlos is confronted with the hostility of Jaime, the oldest of the children. Besides aged professor Casares, the adult personnel of the school includes Carmen, the steely headmistress; Alma, another teacher; Conchita, the cook; and the young caretaker Jacinto. Aggressive and greedy, Jacinto is filled with hatred for the school that houses him and the teachers that raised him. Gradually, Carlos uncovers the dark ties that bind the inhabitants of the school, including the secret that haunts them--Santi, a student who was brutally murdered, and whose pale ghost now wanders the grounds. Who killed Santi on the night when a bomb fell in the center of the courtyard, miraculously without exploding?


News & Interviews for The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del diablo)

Critic Reviews for The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del diablo)

All Critics (119) | Top Critics (33) | Fresh (110) | Rotten (9)

Audience Reviews for The Devil's Backbone (El Espinazo del diablo)

  • Apr 14, 2014
    The Devil's Backbone is more sad than frightening. It focuses on the children in an orphanage with nowhere to turn to as the Spanish Civil War soon empties on their doorstep. While the ghost of Santi is truly unnerving, the film reflects a common theme in Guillermo del Toro's films - that humans are the worst kind of monsters.
    Edward B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 31, 2014
    Guillermo del Toro's The Devil's Backbone is a stunning, atmospheric horror tale that keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish. Del Toro viewed this as one of his most personal efforts, and unlike his other films, this film really goes deep into the horror genre, and in turn delivers a tense, terrifying film going experience. del Toro's direction is terrific and the script is well thought out with plenty of twists and turns to make for an exhilarating and terrifying film going experience. For me, del Toro is a unique director in the horror medium, as he has made several genre pictures that really stood out. Cronos and Mimic are proof of that. Both different films, yet they brought a whole new level of creativity to the medium, which is refreshing to see as well. This is an effective ghost story that is sure to appeal to genre fans, and for viewers looking for engaging horror tale, The Devil's Backbone is one such film that delivers what you'd expect from a del Toro picture. In terms of storytelling, this is a richly detailed film that grabs your attention from the first frame onwards. For fans that enjoy a good old fashioned ghost story, this will surely appeal to you. Del Toro always has a unique vision for his films, and with this film we get a different type f film, but it still nonetheless possesses everything you'd expect from a del Toro picture. His films tend to have a great sense of storytelling aided by powerful visuals. With The Devil's Backbone we get a surprisingly well crafted horror film that will stick with you long after you've seen. The film is one of the best foreign supernatural horror films that I've and it showcases Guillermo del Toro's great talents as a filmmaker perfectly.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Oct 04, 2012
    The Devil's Backbone is not only one of Guillermo del Toro finest film, but it's one of the best horror movies ever made with an intelligent plot that serves more purpose than to just scare you. The Devil's Backbone follows Carlos, a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War, arriving at an ominous boy's orphanage where he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover. Unlike most horror movies which solely focuses on a killer or supernatural being, The Devil's Backbone goes beyond the genre conventions and explores acceptance, lust, fear, and surprisingly fits politics in it plot pretty well. It actually delve into these subjects and gives plantation towards them. The great use of metaphors such as the bomb are both brilliant and creative. The film is slow pace, but it works in its favor developing characters worth caring about. It's also unusually complex for a movie of it kind, which once again works in it favors since it's too often horror movies are dead simple. The horror elements on the other hand are not as strong, del Toro reveal the ghost to early and very clearly for us to see eliminating some mystery behind this ghost. The score for this horror is phenomenal, possibly the best score in it genre. The cast themselves can all act, even the kids give out great performances. One standout being Federico Luppi as Dr. Casares is superb, providing us with a true hero, a gentleman of class and compassion. Another memorable performance being Eduardo Noriega who is perfectly cast as the despicable Jacinto, making you despise him more and more as the film progresses. The cinematography is simply amazing, it gritty style helps set the tone for the film in it darkest moments and made great use of it location. The Devil's Backbone is complex for it genre balancing all it subject matter into a strong and focus film. The Devil's Backbone is easily one of best horror movie you could ever see offering more than any simple horror film.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 21, 2012
    A stylish ghost story from Del Toro set during the Spanish Civil War. Unlike 'Pan's Labyrinth' there is no fantasy here but the story of a few children and their teachers in an isolated orphanage/school is classic spooky story set-up (even in the bright Spanish sun). Like 'The Orphanage' the evil in the building doesn't actually resonate from the ghost and when deaths start occuring Del Toro isn't afraid to show the sheer brutality of greed and evil. The film looks beautiful and the performances are excellent (especially from the children). It's a shame Del Toro couldn't have tackled the children's story 'The Hobbit' as this, 'Pan's Labyrinth' and 'The Orphanage' show how excellently he can blend the innocennce of childhood fantasy and naivety with gritty reality.
    David S Super Reviewer

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