Horrorfest 2022/Let’s Get Criterion Presents: The Devil’s Backbone (2001, Guillermo del Toro)


This was the last movie I watched for my Horrorfest, and I choose wisely. The Devil’s Backbone is a haunting, tragic and bittersweet picture set amongst the horrors and violence of the Spanish Civil War. As I viewed this movie I was reminded that some monsters are very human, which I think runs through a lot of Guillermo del Toro’s work. The man is a master craftsman of dreams and nightmares, fully unafraid to wield magical realism in his cinema. It’s a shame it took the Academy so long to praise his efforts.

Fernando Tielve takes the main character’s role of Carlos and fully runs with it all the way. He is left to survive in an all boys orphanage, bullied at first yet earning the respect of the kids there. Particularly Íñigo Garcés’ Jaime, who he forms a bond with and who is hiding a secret. A ghost is rumored to lurk on the grounds, all while an unexploded bomb sits quietly in the middle of the building. So many metaphors, only so much screen time.

The adults running the place range from saintly, nice, haunted, and wicked. You have Marisa Paredes’ Carmen who runs the place and deals with both scars hidden and obvious. Federico Luppi as Dr. Casares, who cares deeply for both Carman and the boys, yet is older and thus weaker as a result. Irene Visedo plays Conchita, who loves Jacinto (Eduardo Noriega) yet fails to realize he is not a good person until it’s too late. It is the adults who set in motion perilous events that threaten everyone in the orphanage, not the boys who only try to survive.

The ghost scenes in this movie are so effective because they lure you in and then pop up right in your face. There is a keyhole scene that rivals Black Christmas’ one in terms of supreme creep level, and the finale is very suspenseful. I’ll be dwelling on this one a while, and it’s easily one of del Toro’s best movies. It also clearly inspired other later movies, and is a welcome addition to my Criterion collection of Blu-ray’s.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Grave Robbers (1989, Rubén Galindo Jr.)


In Grave Robbers, a long dead cursed executioner who wanted to birth the Antichrist is revived and goes on a pretty brutal killing spree. At times he seemed like your typical unstoppable undead slasher villain, and I’m sure he was inspired by the other horror movie villains from the 1980s. Grave Robbers is not as good as some of Rubén Galindo Jr.’s other movies, yet I thought it had some good moments.

This was a mostly satisfying horror movie, and I was greatly amused by how the evil executioner has magical powers just cause he’s the movie’s villain. The youths dumb enough to rouse him from his slumber are likable enough, and this movie has a pretty high body count. Viewed thanks to Shudder, and wonderfully goofy enough for me to recommend to people.

Horrorfest 2022 Presents: Cementerio del terror aka Cemetery of Terror (1985, Rubén Galindo Jr.)


Rubén Galindo Jr. seems to be a pretty good horror movie director based on what I’ve seen from him so far. Cemetery of Terror is a good example of his talents, and including two groups of youths dealing with an undead serial killer. The older group of kids bring him back and the younger group having the misfortune to be in the same area when it happens.

Hugo Stiglitz stars as a psychiatrist trying to stop the killer by any means necessary. This movie begins as a slow burn, then features tons of gore and murders. The ending made me grin too, since it was the old fashioned freeze frame moment that used to be a thing in movies. The movie is quite good although none of the youths really stood out to me and it’s probably a good thing that Stiglitz was cast in this one since he’s a well known cult movie actor.

I do like how Cemetery of Terror is a combination of slasher movies, zombie films and supernatural elements as well. That’s a nice bunch of different horror sub-genres woven into one movie. I saw this on Shudder, which has a good batch of foreign horror movies. Check it out.

Horrorfest 2021 Presents: Tigers Are Not Afraid (2019, Issa López)


The 2019 horror drama Tigers Are Not Afraid was depressing and well made. Equal parts Guillermo del Toro and Stand By Me with cartel members, the group of kids in this film know they’re all on their own and they act like it throughout the movie. Pursed by a ruthless enemy, one of their members is haunted by ghosts and sees an animated tiger roaming the neighborhood.

Magical realism meets ghost story meets crime drama here, and this film does not hesitate from showing life on the harsh streets. Although the film’s pacing is slow at times there are multiple suspenseful moments and the conclusion is quite violent. I might be thinking about this movie for a while and how it managed to combine politics with horror and sorrow. Those poor kids never had a chance.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑