100 movies: The Devil’s Backbone

100 movies of 2012

Every year I set myself a target, usually of about 100, of films to watch. These are new films. Not new, new films. But films that are new to me. Any time I’ve seen a new one, I post a bit of a brain dump of my thoughts on the film here. Enjoy!

The Devil's BackboneThe Devil’s Backbone (06/06/12)

After Carlos, a 12-year-old whose father has died in the Spanish Civil War, arrives at an ominous boy’s orphanage he discovers the school is haunted and has many dark secrets that he must uncover.

You very rarely get to see good ghost stories these days. They’re usually laden with horror clich├ęs and totally, ridiculously stupid characters. So, it’s pretty refreshing watching an old Guillermo del Toro ghost story which is a pure ghost story, packed with some decent chills, but like a lot of his films, some intelligent and interesting characters.

In many ways, The Devil’s Backbone reminded me of a more recent ghost story in which Guillermo del Toro was an executive producer – The Orphanage. The ghost story part of both of these films aren’t the only focus. It’s closely intertwined with the goings on in the present. Then some of the narration and setting reminded me a lot of one of Guillermo’s most popular films – Pan’s Labyrinth. You can definitely see how he’s developed his films.

The strongest point in this film are the characters and the actors who play them. All the boys are what I’d imagine real young boys would be like in an isolated orphanage. Tearaways, bullies but friends all in the same situation. Never once did the boys annoy me. Something that sometimes a lot of young actors’ characters tend to do for me!

I wouldn’t say The Devil’s Backbone was a scary film. Just a beautifully done ghost story. Haunting, for sure. Definitely recommend it.
Rating: 4/5

Read on to see all the films watched this year…

120+ movies: Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark

120+ Movies of 2011, Annual Movie Challenge

Looking back to last year’s film watching challenge, I am way behind on my target of over 120 films watched in a year. This time last year I’d seen nearly 100 films already, and my target was only 100! Eep! If I have any chance of hitting over 120 this year I have some major catching up to do.

Don't Be Afraid of the DarkDon’t Be Afraid of the Dark (12/10/11)

A young girl sent to live with her father and his new girlfriend discovers creatures in her new home who want to claim her as one of their own.

I love a good horror/ghost story. Now that Halloween’s not far off, all the scary films are coming out thick and fast. Good news!

While DBAOTD had a few shortcomings, I really enjoyed it. I don’t scare easy and I can’t honestly remember the last film I saw that genuinely scared me. Oh wait, it could have been Black Swan. But that’s a different kind of scare. I digress!

DBAOTD felt like, to me, that it was trying to be a more traditional scary film. It definitely felt like The Shining at points with the young girl and the old knowledgeable grandfather type man. There were some good jumpy moments. Some nice tension building – mostly down to the score by Marco Beltrami and some really beautifully set up shots.

I was saddened by Guy Pearce’s lack of acting. Anyone could have played his character of the father who doesn’t know what to do with his child. Katie Holmes actually surprised me. I didn’t think she was awful! The real star of the show was Bailee Madison. She stole the show and sold the fear that poor Sally was feeling.

With Guillermo del Toro’s hand in this pie, you’ve got the creatures looking that distinct Guillermo way. While my brother groaned and rolled his eyes when he saw the tree carving in the door and the look of the creatures, I was quite happy to see his style back on the big screen. In fact, it made me want to watch Pan’s Labyrinth again.

All in all, a good scary film. A good one for Halloween.
Rating: 4/5

Read on to see the entire list of movies seen this year so far:

100 movies: The Orphanage & Prince of Persia

100 movies of 2010

I’ve got some movies that have been sitting on my shelf just waiting to get watched. The Orphanage was one of those and I’m now wondering why I left it on my shelf for so long!

El Orfanto aka The Orphanage (08/05/10)
Described as an old fashioned ghost story, The Orphanage mostly lives up to that claim. I say mostly, because my interpretation of the movie takes the ghost out of the film. Not that that’s a bad thing – quite the opposite! It did have all the necessities for an original ghost story – cute but slightly scary children, a very strange looking old woman and a big empty building. I liked the use of minor gore really sparingly in the film. I can count the moments that there was a horrifying image on one hand, which is a good thing. So many horror movies these days rely on the use of gore for the scares. To me this film was less about the scares/ghost story aspect and more about the loss of a child and how a mother copes with that. Very touching.
Rating: 4/5

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (09/05/10)
I have loved the Prince of Persia games since way back when it was a 2D simple platform game. Then when the new games came out on PC I was intrigued. I missed out on The Sands of Time and went into the new game franchise with Warrior Within and have played all the games since. LOVE THEM. So when the announcement was made that there was going to be a movie version of my favourite ever game I was scared. Yes I like the Tomb Raider movies, but even I know they’re not amazing. They’re my guilty pleasure movies. However I wanted Prince of Persia to be different, mostly because the plots of the game are just as enthralling as the game play.

Casting Jake Gyllenhaal as Dastan gave me a bit of a fright – I know he can act but I didn’t think he looked the part! Having seen the film now I am totally onboard with him as the Prince and seeing more of this franchise in movie format. The basic story was taken from the Sands of Time game and built on for the purposes of the movie, adding more characters. As summer blockbuster type movies go, this one ticked all the boxes. Lots of action with nicely put together action sequences. There was some effort put in to make it look like the games, however not too much as to make it cheesy. You’ve got some nice, typical, PoP game moves as well. Which was nice to see!

I had a few mixed feelings about Gemma Arterton as Princess Tamina. I had an irrational hate of her, which Clash of the Titans and Sands of Time have more or less washed away. Ben Kingsley was just phoning it on, as he’s done on all of his recent films that I’ve seen. Alfred Molina was a good bit of comedy and Jake was just awesome. I might be slightly swayed by how he looked in the film, but eh, I’m only human!

There was one thing which did bug me about the film. The use of the Papyrus font for the onscreen location descriptions! Papyrus is not a good font for any kind of subtitles on movies and should not be used! Just don’t do it. Other than that, a good movie with plenty to build on if they decide to do more movies from the franchise of games.
Rating: 4/5

Read more to see the full list of movies I’ve seen so far this year.