Del Toro's film is part ghost story, part thriller. At the tail end of the Spanish Civil War in 1939, a boy named Carlos (Tielve) enters a decrepit boarding school which houses orphans of the Republican forces' leadership and military. A former student named Jacinto (Noriega) is now a member of the staff, but his behavior is suspicious. It turns out Jacinto wants to steal some valuable gold hidden on the grounds. To make conditions even more ominous, there's a ghost of a young boy haunting the school... who has a secret to share with Carlos.
A shudder-inducing treat that shows artful restraint in the telling. Del Toro evokes the hard price of war in the school's run-down state and the frayed nerves of the adults who run the place, played by veterans Luppi and Paredes. The ghost of Santi (Valverde) is presented at intervals to jolt us back to a state of fear, but we also know Santi holds a key to the story's bigger mystery. Finally, a huge unexploded bomb is embedded in the center of the school's courtyard, an ingenious visual device that presages explosions yet to come — explosions you won't want to miss.