Sunday, June 30, 2013

Guillermo del Toro Retrospective: THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE

The Devil's Backbone
Starring: Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega, Federico Luppi, Fernando Tielve, Inigo Garces
Rated: R

After an enormously crushing experience with Mimic, Guillermo del Toro returns to Mexico to make what he considers one of his most personal projects, The Devil's Backbone.  He had thought his days as a big Hollywood director, and his chance to put his fingerprints on it, were likely over.  Not that the opportunities weren't present, but that he himself was not willing to put all the weight of dealing with a big studio production and dealing with the suits on his shoulders again.  Strangely enough, going back to Mexico would gain him more notoriety as a young and upcoming visionary master.  The door to Hollywood would instantly open back up after this film became incredibly acclaimed by those viewing it in 2001.

The Devil's Backbone is a ghost story set on the backdrop of an all boys orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. And quite frankly, in this author's eyes, is one of the best ghost stories ever put on film.  del Toro manages to bring heart and soul to such a dark gothic tale.  He also manages to scare the piss out of you.  The ghost in the film is inspired by that of the Japanese horror films of the time.  This, mind you, coming before the explosion of them into popularity following the highly successful remake of The Ring.  But the film is more than just boos, scares and creepy.  The ghost tale is only a means to serve a higher purpose and to give justice and closure to the details behind the haunting.  The horror comes secondary to a much more important story that this film is actually telling.
del Toro has claimed this, along with Pan's Labyrinth and Hellboy II: The Golden Army to be among his very favorite of his works.  This definitely is a passionate piece and I think has somewhat been overlooks, forgotten or never seen by a general movie going audience.  Us film geeks hold it high and will always talk about it, but its a film that most should see.  Not only is it scary, but its a damn good film as well.  Its almost a companion piece to Pan's Labyrinth.  The feel of the same ilk  If del Toro is crafting together a series of fairy tales for a big anthology, those two are definitely the corner stones.  Personally, I'd throw Cronos in for good measure.  Guillermo has referred to them (Backbone & Pan's) appropriately as "brother & sister" and that definitely makes sense in more ways than one.  One film deals with the boys' side of things in the supernatural realm and the others a young girl.  Its not all quite that literal, but that is there.
If you've never had the pleasure of seeing The Devil's Backbone, you're in luck.  On July 30, The Criterion Collecton will be releasing it on Blu-ray for the first time.  After seeing the work done on Cronos, I can almost guarantee you will be given an amazing presentation.  Aptly spined "666", the bonus material will most assuredly give you great introspective on the film as well.  You won't want to miss this release.

Following the success of The Devil's Backbone, Guillermo is lured back to the bright lights of Hollywood to direct not only his first franchise picture but also his first comic book movie.  But The Devil's Backbone would not be his last return to he Mexican well just yet.

Next Time:  Blade II

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