The Devil's Backbone 93
[ "What is a ghost? A tragedy condemned to repeat itself time and again? An instant of pain, perhaps. Something dead which still seems to be alive. An emotion suspended in time. Like a blurred photograph. Like an insect trapped in amber."
First off, I was surprised by the golden hues of the cinematography and the desert location, expecting this to be as oppressively dark and dank as the usual ghost stories. The ghost itself is a wonderful creation, both for the amazing special effects work and the more sad than scary context of the haunting. Beyond the ghost, there are great touches all around: the dud bomb in the yard, the doctor selling "limbo water", the headmistress' fake leg, the asshole guard looking for treasure, the kids' love of comic books... Speaking of which, del Toro truly has a way with children, being true to their feelings without idealizing them or making them into stupid movie brats. Set in an orphanage near the end of the Spanish Civil War, the film masterfully juggles fantasy/horror, political and personal drama and comes up with a powerful, multi-layered allegory of Resistance.
"You think that it'll all work out if we behave?"
"They have the rifle. They're bigger than us, and stronger."
"Yes. But there's more of us."
Blade II 44
Pan's Labyrinth 94
Hellboy II: The Golden Army 75
NEXT: AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS (2013)