Tag Archives: Federico Luppi

The Devil’s Backbone (2001) Review

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The Devil's Backbone

Time: 106 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] contains violence & offensive language
Cast:
Fernando Tielve as Carlos
Íñigo Garcés as Jaime
Eduardo Noriega as Jacinto
Marisa Paredes as Carmen
Federico Luppi as Dr. Casares
Director: Guillermo del Toro

After losing his father, 10-year-old Carlos (Fernando Tielve) arrives at the Santa Lucia School, which shelters orphans of the Republican militia and politicians, and is taken in by the steely headmistress, Carmen (Marisa Paredes), and the kindly professor, Casares (Federico Luppi). Soon after his arrival, Carlos has a run-in with the violent caretaker, Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega). Gradually, Carlos uncovers the secrets of the school, including the youthful ghost that wanders the grounds.

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I was interested in The Devil’s Backbone simply because Guillermo Del Toro was directing it, outside of that I really didn’t know what to expect from the movie aside from it being a horror movie. It turned out to be a great and surprising ghost story, and actually one of Del Toro’s best movies.

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The Devil’s Backbone does fall under being a horror movie, however I’d say that it’s more of a ghost story, it was more unsettling than actually scary. The backdrop and setting are great, with the story being set at an orphanage during the Spanish Civil War. This helped in creating a creeping and menacing atmosphere. There’s a lot of thematic elements at play here too with the effect of war. It’s a very dark and haunting story, and the climax is particularly brutal. It is similar in tone to Del Toro’s later films like Pan’s Labyrinth, and like those movies, the real monsters aren’t ghosts or supernatural elements, but humans. In fact, this is much less fantastical and more grounded than Pan’s Labyrinth, the characters feel very much human. The pacing was good and really keeps you invested in what was happening while not feeling too rushed, the runtime at about an hour and 50 minutes was just right for the movie overall. The story itself while arguably predictable (especially as the movie moves along), is interesting, well written, and surprisingly moving. There’s a lot happening in this movie despite the initial simple premise, with swirling plotlines and multiple themes, and Del Toro balances it out. It’s definitely one of his most intelligently written films.

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The acting is great from everyone. The child actors do well on their parts, especially the leads in Fernando Tielve and Inigo Garces, and their dynamic was great and very believable. The adult cast including Federico Luppi, Eduardo Noriega and Marisa Paredes are also very good in their roles, the children stand out the most but the adults aren’t far behind.

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This is Guillermo del Toro’s third movie and he’s definitely progressed as a filmmaker when considering his past movies with Cronos and Mimic, while those were quite good, The Devil’s Backbone is very much a step up. Although it’s at a lower budget (at around US $6.5 million), it’s fantastic on a technical level. The cinematography is great, beautiful and it encapsulates the whole movie with a ghostly vibe, which is helped particularly by the camerawork, lighting and colour tones. The aesthetic is definitely gothic, and that definitely fit the tone of the story perfectly. The setting at the orphanage is well captured here, with a lot of attention to detail particularly with the production design. The horror is subtle, and you don’t get too many scares (again more of a ghost story than a horror film), and you really feel the sense of isolation throughout the movie. The score from Javier Navarrete added a lot to the movie too.

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The Devil’s Backbone is a greatly directed, written and acted movie, a grounded and haunting ghost story. It is on the higher end of Guillermo Del Toro’s filmography yet has been somewhat overlooked, definitely worth watching.

Cronos (1993) Review

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Cronos

Time: 92 Minutes
Cast:
Federico Luppi as Jesús Gris
Ron Perlman as Angel de la Guardia
Claudio Brook as Dieter de la Guardia
Margarita Isabel as Mercedes Gris
Tamara Shanath as Aurora Gris
Director: Guillermo del Toro

Antique dealer Jesus Gris (Federico Luppi) stumbles across Cronos, a 400-year-old scarab that, when it latches onto him, grants him youth and eternal life — but also a thirst for blood. As Jesus enjoys his newfound vitality, he’s unaware that a dying old man, Dieter de la Guardia (Claudio Brook), has sent his nephew, Angel (Ron Perlman), to find the scarab and bring it back to him. But Jesus will not give immortality up easily, even risking the life of his orphan granddaughter (Tamara Shanath).

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I’m only aware and watched Cronos because it was directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and I wanted to check out all of his movies. This is actually his first film of his directing career, and for a debut movie, it was quite good. It does have its issues and lacks the same touch that most of Del Toro’s later films has, but there’s a lot of good parts here at the same time.

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Cronos is definitely an interesting take on a vampire story. It is slowly paced and can be a bit sluggish at times, even though the movie is an hour and a half long. The film lacks some depth and doesn’t go all the way with its ideas (at least not as much as I’d like at least), but I was reasonably interested throughout. Some plotting and dialogue isn’t exactly the best, it’s a bit rough around the edges and wasn’t quite polished. However those are to be expected from a first movie. The plot is simplistic but it at least manages to avoid overcomplicating everything. In terms of other issues, it’s a small thing, but while most of the movie is in Spanish, there are some conversations where one person is speaking in English and the other in Spanish. Those moments are pretty distracting and takes you out of the experience, it probably should’ve just been fully in Spanish (again though it’s only a minor distraction). The writing was solid enough overall.

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Federico Luppi gives a fantastic performance as main character Jesus Gris, an older man who finds himself with this particular device which helps him cheat death. He’s great and really portrays the character and everything he goes through really well, he really was a standout in this movie. Tamara Shanath also gives a solid performance as Jesus’s granddaughter, the relationship between the two feels genuine, and she really gets chances to shine towards the end of the movie. Ron Perlman is also in this and acts very well. He can be over the top and hammy at points (and his character’s motivations were a bit all over the place by the end), but I thought he was enjoyable to watch. The rest of the acting can be a bit mixed.

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Guillermo Del Toro directed this movie very well, especially considering that this was his first movie. It is lower budget at around $2 million, but he seemed to have put it to good use. It’s quite a good looking movie, it’s well shot, the use of colour was great, and I really liked the moments where Del Toro played with some gothic elements. You can really tell even just from this one movie that he’s a director who really has an eye for detail. The sets are full of detail and were well made, the makeup and practical effects are effectively creepy and well designed, the gore effects were greatly gruesome too. There’s quite an eerie atmosphere throughout too, which was helped by the score by Javier Alvarez, which was quite effective.

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Cronos isn’t one of Guillermo Del Toro’s strongest movies, but it is still solid. It doesn’t quite reach its potential despite its interesting take on the familiar vampire tale, and it is rough around the edges for sure. With that said, many of the flaws of the movie can be looked over considering that it was his first movie. On the whole it is directed very well, the acting from Luppi, Shanath and Perlman is great and it was interesting enough to watch. Definitely worth checking out.