The Devil's Backbone (2001)

From its breathtaking opening shot from inside the bomb bay of a cruising warplane, you know you’re in the hands of a master with The Devil’s Backbone. Del Toro’s return to his native language following the disappointment of 1997’s heavily recut Hollywood horrorshow Mimic proved conclusively that, working without interference, this Mexican up-and-comer was capable of remarkable cinema – a fact that has been reconfirmed time and again since. It’s odd but pleasing that The Devil’s Backbone beat out its loose follow-up Pan’s Labyrinth on this list: it’s an odder, less showy but more complete work, depicting the trials endured by a group of boys living in a haunted orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. Cold, creepy and compelling, this is a small film from a massive talent. TH
Dir Guillermo del Toro (Marisa Paredes, Eduardo Noriega)

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