DECEMBER 27, 2007
Guillermo Del Toro’s The Devil’s Backbone is one of the finest ghost movies ever made, blowing stuff like The Others out of the water, into the atmosphere, and pulverizing it into dust. And since the trailers for The Orphanage (aka El Orfanato), which Del Toro produced, gave me a Backbone vibe, I had high hopes for the film. Thankfully, they were more or less achieved.
This is not a film for impatient viewers. If you need a death or carnage every 5 minutes in order to accept it as a horror movie, not only are you kind of dumb, but you should definitely avoid this. The film is drenched with atmosphere and “slow burn” style chills, not fake scares and other bullshit. There are a few set-pieces here and there that provide some standard thrills (such as a panicked rescue attempt at high tide), but they are few and far between, and not really the point anyway.
Strangely, as much as I abhor the dubbing process, I almost wish the film was in English. Because the set design and cinematography were so great (and the image was 2.35:1, rare for this type of film), I found myself immersed in the image, and thus missed a few plot points because I didn’t feel like focusing on one small area of the screen so I could read the subtitles. Or maybe I should just learn Spanish. There was a hypnotism scene where a guy counted backwards from ten... at least I understood that without needing to read.
Some have claimed the ending is “happy”, but that’s not entirely accurate. It’s a very bittersweet “happiness”, if anything. A happy ending, to me anyway, is everyone surviving, bad guys dead, etc. This ending combined suicide, accidental death, parental regret... not exactly the stuff of fluffy bunnies.
Also, the lead actress, Belén Rueda, is stunningly beautiful. Just wanted to point that out.
Not sure how wide the release is, but if it’s in your area and you can appreciate a “fairy tale” style ghost movie with an emphasis on atmosphere instead of “trailer moments”, then please check it out, especially if you’re a Del Toro fan (there should be a Hellboy II trailer attached as well, wooo).
What say you?