A haunting story of rivalry, ambition and mysterious disappearances in a remote orphanage, which houses a small fortune in Spanish Civil War gold.
During the Spanish Civil War, Casares (Federico Luppi) and the one-legged Carmen (Marisa Paredes) operate an orphanage located miles from anywhere; hidden somewhere in the place is a cache of gold ingots funding for the Republican cause. 12-year-old Carlos (Fernando Tielve) is left at the orphanage, after the presumed deaths of his parents, and quickly becomes aware that one of the boys has disappeared, it happened the night a bomb, which never exploded, was dropped from an enemy plane and landed in the courtyard. Carlos becomes aware that there are sinister forces at work in the house.
Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican filmmaker who specialises in horror films, has come up with a creepy ghost story in The Devil's Backbone, a thriller made with considerable style. The tension is derived from two sources: the menace of the ghostly boy and, even more alarming, the violence of Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega), the establishment's janitor, who is after the hidden gold and who will stop at nothing to get it.
There are good performances all round, with Fernando Tielve very effective as the resourceful young hero, and veterans Federico Luppi, memorable from Del Toro's Chronos and Marisa Paredes from Almodovar's All About My Mother, distinguishing themselves as the odd couple who run the orphanage. There are some literally breathtaking moments in this classy exercise in the supernatural.