Film Overview: A Horror Catch-All in “When Evil Lurks”

The idea of otherism is baked into the rotting cake of a lot horror cinema—the thought of a nefarious intruder corrupting, overtaking or consuming away at our family members. It’s there in tales of demonic possession, of vampire lore, of zombie tropes and plague sagas. No one is secure, as a result of no person will be trusted to be who they are saying they’re.

“When Evil Lurks,” the newest characteristic from Argentine style maestro Demián Rugna (enjoying now at Regal Royal Palm Seashore and different South Florida theaters), synthesizes many of those concepts right into a cauldron of terror that’s completely its personal. The person substances could borrow from movies as numerous of “The Night time of the Dwelling Useless,” “The Exorcist,” “Youngsters of the Corn” and “Pet Sematary,” however the film’s inner logic and set of codes are distinctive and esoteric. The result’s a harrowing mishmash of grindhouse-style dread that can not be un-seen, that jettisons manipulative bounce scares for a slowly unfolding nightmare tapestry which will scare off all however the style’s most hardcore devotees.

The setting is an remoted village, a spot of ostensible safety towards a contagion of demonic possession that has apparently permeated the main inhabitants facilities. Attracted by gunshots and by the invention of a disemboweled physique within the forest, brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodriguez) and Jaime (Demián Salomon) uncover {that a} member of their neighborhood has been contaminated—and it’s not a reasonably sight. However as a result of one of many guidelines of this film’s inner logic is that gunfire can not finish the possession—it solely will increase its transmissibility, whereas killing the host—Pedro and Jaime are challenged with relocating stated host till a correct “cleaner,” armed with arcane, steampunk-style instruments administered in a ritualistic course of, can extinguish the evil. In different phrases, very like the village police, who’re content material to scrub their arms of the issue, they cross the buck to another person.

This seems to be, let’s simply say, a poor resolution. It’s not lengthy earlier than this “affected person zero” has unfold the scourge to the neighborhood, amongst them Pedro’s ex-wife and kids, creating the apocalyptic circumstances which have reportedly unfold to the broader world, and reworking everybody it touches into stealth carriers of a demonic evil.

Is the film price the entire gore and disgust? Does it have one thing to say, in spite of everything? Whereas I admittedly spent a lot of “When Evil Lurks” watching the display screen via my fingers, if not trying away completely, I’m undecided it would fulfill the factors of these searching for “elevated” horror, a la fashionable classics like “The Babadook,” “It Follows” or Jordan Peele’s “Us.” “When Evil Lurks” does discover themes such because the pervasiveness of xenophobia, however solely in passing. And it definitely qualifies as a post-COVID horror pic, with its charged milieu of an airborne virus that, on this case, turns its victims into some mixture of zombie and demon.

However largely, writer-director Rugna eschews well timed themes for extra elemental ones. There’s nearly no character growth within the film; apart from a damaged marriage, we all know nearly nothing about Pedro, not to mention his brother. Such particulars would maybe distract from the taut and lean nightmare’s story-driven propulsion.

Because the an infection spreads to everybody round them, we’re positioned within the headspaces of two males as they’re compelled to reckon with a phenomenon that the rational thoughts can’t settle for, an insidious evil that wears the costumes of their family members. It seduces them, and us, via the illusions of familiarity and of innocence, which is why children make the perfect carriers. “Evil likes kids, and kids like evil,” gives a demonologist launched partway via the film, in an evaluation as chilling as it’s matter-of-fact. Finally, I don’t know what’s scarier in “When Evil Lurks”—its phrases or its pictures.

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