Thursday, 21 August 2008

EL ESPINOZO DEL DIABLO/The Devil's Backbone (2001)

Is it just me ? When I saw Guillermo del Toro's PAN'S LABRINTH, I found myself completely engrossed by the "human" story and felt that the fantasy trappings were totally unnecessary. It was an interesting film to be sure but I really couldn't see what all the fuss was about. And here I go again with THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE! The whole concept of the children in the decaying orphanage being cared for by a struggling staff while the Spanish Civil War rages without and a murder has been commited within has the making of a gripping film but I found the supernatural element added to the story was completely superfluous (and believe me I love a good ghost story) and simply wasn't needed and actually detracted from the power of the story...and just what was that bomb all about ? Answers on a postcard please. I was never 100% convinced by CRONOS either - although, again, there is the heart of a very interesting film there and a pretty original one at that. But back to THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE : Taken out of context the ghost scenes work well enough but at no point did I feel that extra little frisson that comes with a truly top class ghost movie. Final trivia point : Did the wooden leg exist solely so the gold could be hidden in it (it seems to have no other reason for being in the story) or was it del Toro's personal homage to fellow Spanish director Luis Bunuel. Sorry Guillermo, for me the jury is still out. Which is not to say you are uninteresting and, hey, just loved HELLBOY. Rating : *** (go figure!)


Cerpts said...

I haven't seen KRONOS or PAN'S LABYRINTH yet but hey, I loved HELLBOY as well. As for THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE, I only recently saw it for the first time (last week, in fact). And I must say I kinda agree with you. While I didn't think the ghost elements detracted from the film as a whole, I also couldn't really figure out what one had to do with the other. The film tried my patience somewhat at the beginning because I was having a hard time getting involved with the characters but after that, I also found the orphanage story engrossing. The ghost itself was a nice visual (and did provide one genuine scare moment) but I also found absolutely no "growing dread" or whatever else you'd call the usual ghost movie atmosphere. The threat was all from the human protagonist. Granted, the ghost wasn't actually SUPPOSED to be a threat -- to the kids anyway -- but still, like you I found something lacking in the film. It was OK but nothing spectacular. Guillermo del Toro seems to be particularly unsuited to fantastic/horror subjects; which is really strange considering the kinds of movies he makes. One wonders what he would make out of a straight drama or romance without any fantastic elements whatsoever. I'd be willing to bet the results would be more fulfilling.

Aaron White said...

Thanks for the comment, I will e-mail ( you in the near future. As for Guillermo del Toro, I completely agree about the supernatural elements of The Devil's Backbone, but will have to gracefully disagree with Pan's Labyrinth, as I believe that the ballancing act that Del Toro plays between the Civil War and the fantasy world is the key to the love I have for this movie.

I really like what I see on this blog and will look forward to reading it.

Weaverman said...

Aaron - Many thanks and of course to gracefully diagree is what it's all about. Look forward to hearing from you. Perhaps the fantasy element in PAN was better integrated but I still felt rather unsatisfied by the film. I look forward to THE ORPHANAGE and his future films because he is still one of the more interesting directors around today. CERPTS, yes I'd like to see del Toro handle a non-fantasy subject. Perhaps because of the Spanish Civil War theme that runs through his work I kept thinking of him while reading C.J.Sansom's WINTER IN MADRID recently. Alternatively, Id like to see him tackle a full on ghost story (maybe THE ORPHANAGE is just that) although I suspect that his European sensibilities make this unlikely.