Patrizia Dahlia Thompson is here with the first in a new series on extreme horror! Sit back and get ready to scream!
When Evil Lurks – the fifth film from Demián Rugna – is a nasty horror film. Let me be clear, I mean that in the best way. The film is so brilliantly devoted to being a nasty, mean spirited film that consistently shocks and surprises you. Children and animals are harmed. No one is safe. The mood is nihilistic and portentous throughout.
The Argentinian Rugna gained international attention with his last film Terrified. Terrified won awards at festivals, was a word-of-mouth smash and gained big name fans like Guillermo Del Toro (who is supposed to be producing a remake). American horror films that followed of course ripped off its scares.
When Evil Lurks begins in media res. It is in the Argentine countryside. Brothers Pedro and Janine hear gunshots from their farmhouse. The next day they investigate, finding an eviscerated man
We learn that the man was a “cleaner” or a kind of Exorcist. Upon investigation they find that their poor neighbour’s son Uriel has become a Rotten. That is to say he has become a bloated, grotesque creature that is inhabited by a demon who is awaiting physical birth. The effect on Uriel is amazing, recalling the bloated character in Slither.
Quickly we learn, however, that the evil that is indeed lurking, is not limited to physical manifestations. The evil in this film is an omnipresent cosmic horror. The obvious reference when it comes to this kind of “cosmic” horror is Lovecraft, but this also recalls the “apocalypse” trilogy of John Carpenter films, or the Demons films. The film drops you immediately into its hermetically sealed world, where possessions are an acknowledged reality in Argentina, and are treated as a public health issue. In this way Demián combines the infection pandemic horror with the possession.
The boys are enlisted by neighbour Ruiz to try to move the rotten away from their area. When it goes wrong Pedro decides to try to get his estranged children, his ex wife and her husband and their daughter, and run from the oncoming evil. Things, it’s fair to say, only get worse.
One of the aspects that makes the film work so well is the sparse characterization. Everything we know about the characters we learn throughout the events or simply through the uniformly brilliant performances. By the time a child is told the lore of possessions, an exposition dump is frankly appreciated. So much is hinted and unexplored it’s refreshing.
The filmmaking is fantastic. The score by Pablo Fuu is excellent, at times it’s haunting beauty made me recall the more lyrical pieces from Jóhann Jóhannsson’s music for Mandy.
This is the kind of thing I have been looking for a horror film to do for me for a while. Don’t get me wrong! Whilst I’ve enjoyed plenty of good horror films in the last few years, only a few – The Sadness and Evil Dead Rise come to mind – have scratched that particular, nasty itch. To this selective company goes When Evil Lurks. Grab a friend or partner(s?) and laugh and jump and scream on your couch, or beanbag if that’s how you choose to live your life.
When Evil Lurks is currently streaming on Shudder.