19 December 2011

Ally's Review: The Devil's Backbone

I was the only horror clubber who'd seen Clarky's choice this week, and I must admit when he brought it to the table I kind of sighed. Not because I thought it was a bad film on first viewing, but more that I remember seeing it in the cinema and feeling profoundly bored. However, that was a decade ago and things change, so perhaps my feelings would too?

Unfortunately, I felt much the same way as on first viewing. I should probably clarify that I don't think The Devil's Backbone is any shape or form a bad movie. It's a excellent in a lot of ways, and I really do admire what del Toro has achieved… yet I never found myself feeling captivated by the onscreen events.

Set near the end of the brutal Spanish Civil War, we are introduced to an orphanage for children of the martyred left wing republicans. We arrive at this run down building with Carlos, a young boy who doesn't know that his father has been killed. He is dumped at the worst time, with barely enough food to feed the growing number of children as the ravages of war become an increasing reality. I think this aspect of the film is its great accomplishment. We really get a sense of the pressures and difficulties that being on the losing side of war can bring, and del Toro achieves this without ramming it down our throats. The narrative is in a lot of ways about something different, but the pain and sacrifice of the war effort hangs heavy in every scene. In this sense, the film deserves all the critical praise that it received.

It is also beautifully shot. The scenery of the parched Spanish landscape is filmed to perfection, as are the night time shots. It really is gorgeous to look at. The acting on display is first rate, with some characters who really portray a great deal of depth. In particular, Dr Casares and Carmen are richly created and give the film a real soul, and it is through them that we see the harsh reality of war. The children are also universally believable, which is no small achievement. The language of the film is incredibly poetic and beautiful too.

Sounds like a great movie, huh?? Well, I suppose it is in a way. Perhaps it's just my overstimulated - lacking in patience - mindset, but I felt very bored for most of the movie. The pace of the film is very slow and deliberate, in no rush to tell its story. I found my mind wandering off to other places, trying to engage the guys in banter, because I couldn't stay with the film. I felt like a bored three year old. From a horror perspective, the film is not scary. Truthfully, I'm not entirely convinced it should be classified as a horror film anyway. Yes, it is a ghost story, but the traditional ghost story is used as a metaphor for something a lot more substantial, and not supernatural. The ghost himself is on display early and often, so there is no real sense of mystery about the unknown, and the director makes only halfhearted attempts to make the audience jump.

For me, this is the type of horror movie that you might name check if you want to impress. It's a great piece of filmmaking that has real quality about it, but to be absolutely honest - give me Friday the 13th Part IV or Re-Animator over this every single day of the week.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.