Tuesday, October 6, 2009

October Horror Fest #6: THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE

For this entry we travel to Spain, the home of visionary director Guillermo del Toro. The common thread running through del Toro's work is the fairy tale story; many of his films deal with children in perilous situations, and their battles to escape or resolve them.

Like it's popular "spiritual sequel" Pan's Labyrinth, this film is set in Spain during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Young Carlos arrives at an orphanage, believing his father will come to retrieve him when the war is over. Almost immediately, the boy is witness to a ghostly apparition that only enhances the turmoil surrounding him in the isolated and decrepit orphanage.

Themes of abandonment and innocence lost permeate The Devil's Backbone. The desolate orphanage provide the perfect setting for hopelessness. Ghost stories may seem played out as horror film topics these days, but del Toro delivers the atmosphere and genuine chills that makes this work extremely well. The young child actors are be commended for handling such heavy material not only competently, but masterfully.

As I've mentioned before, the best way to watch a foreign film is with the original language audio track and subtitles. Dubbing just ruins the atmosphere, especially for a film trying to scare you. So remember that when you sit down to experience The Devil's Backbone. Warning: if you have kids, you'll never want to let them out of your sight after watching this. Enjoy.

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