The Art Gallery of Ontario’s screening of “The Devil’s Backbone” was important to consider. This is mostly because “The Devil’s Backbone” is directed by Guillermo del Toro, whose significance in the art gallery has become more prominent with the start of his exhibit this month, At Home With Monsters.
The AGO showcased this Spanish tale on Wednesday evening. Although I wish I could tell you that it was a dark and stormy night when the screening took place. The truth was that it’s nearing Halloween season, so naturally it was in time for the showing of At Home With Monsters.
The film tells the story of a boy named Carlos, whose father is killed during the Spanish Civil War. It’s 1939, and the tale brings us a depth of mystique. If the headmistress with the beady eyes and the kid with the knife don’t wean you away, I don’t know what will.
Before I viewed the film screening, I had to watch the trailer to make sure that I wouldn’t hide under my seat or hide under someone else’s seat. Midway through the trailer, it boasts the idea of a ghost as “a spirit trapped between two worlds.” After hearing this, I had the realization that the scariest thing about ghosts is that they can possibly exist in two places at once.
The orphanage that Carlos is sent off to isn’t horror-movie-scary. When given first glimpse of the orphanage, there’s a sense of ease. It’s quite the large facility, with a 17th century looking courtyard and fairly high ceilings. Pretty snazzy digs if you ask me.
The snazzy digs, however, quit living up to their name as soon as paranormal activity comes to a start. This movie isn’t scary because it mimics reality, it’s scary because it could happen. What Carlos goes through could happen to anyone, perhaps anytime, if you don’t play your cards right—or even if you do.
When Carlos sneaks out one night and sees the ghost of Santi, a boy who was killed at the orphanage by murderers, the small pale figure is drenched with blood around the top of his head. Do ghosts bleed? And if they do, wouldn’t that make them seem more mortal than they appear not to be? There are too many questions to be asked, and not enough seem to be answered.