Twelve-year-old Carlos is brought to a dilapidated boarding school. He is struck by the odd sight of a bomb standing in the middle of the courtyard. But even more unnerving is the ghost of a young boy that soon makes its presence known. Unravelling the mystery of this ghost isn’t Carlos’ only problem however. There are bullies in the school, and the brutal handyman has his eye on the gold in the safe. Said handyman is determined to get at the gold, and doesn’t care who gets hurt (or worse) i… the process.
Any synopsis will only do an injustice to the complex storyline, which mixes expert gothic thrills, sexual psychodrama and political allegory. Director Guillermo Del Toro says in the commentary that this is his favourite of his films, and it’s easy to see why. This is where his style and substance mix most satisfyingly.
Great sound, which is so important in this kind of film. The music has been given and excellent mix, but so have the sound effects. All sorts of disturbing noises, from howling winds to other, less immediately identifiable (and thus all the more creepy) sounds jumping at you from the rear. No distortion in the dialogue.
The colours and flesh tones are excellent, and the format is the original 1.85:1. Sadly, the blacks aren’t as good as they should be, being neither quite as deep as they should be, and sometimes having a faint green tinge. This isn’t enough to spoil the film, but does work a bit against the carefully wrought atmosphere.
The commentary, by Del Toro and cinematographer Guillermo Navarro, is as thoughtful as the film it accompanies. They do talk about technical aspects, but Del Toro is most interested in the film’s thematic concerns, and he elaborates on these at length, as well as discussing things like Hitchcock’s influence and the multiple mirroring and echoing of various scenes. Other extras are five storyboard comparisons (watch a sequence as a montage of storyboards alone, or simultaneously with the actual footage), a promo featurette (in Spanish, with subtitles), and trailers for The Devil’s Backbone (full frame), 13 Ghosts (1960 version), All About My Mother and Not One Less. The menu is basic.
A very thoughtful commentary and a very ambitious, challenging ghost story. A most satisfying combination.
Special Features List
- Storyboard Comparisons
- Theatrical Trailers