- Director: Demián Rugna
- Writer: Demián Rugna
- Stars: Ezequiel Rodríguez, Luis Ziembrowski, Frederico Liss
Director Demián Rugna wowed audiences with his 2017 film Terrified and he has now partnered with Shudder to share more of his twisted mind scape with us. Again, focusing on a small group of people, When Evil Lurks is a delightfully nasty and angst filled possession film.
Brothers Pedro and Jimi discover a mutilated corpse in their rural village. Ultimately, it is uncovered that this poor soul, formerly known as Uriel, has been possessed for a year and the body that the brothers found is that of The Cleaner who was supposed to exorcise the devil out of Uriel. The practical effects used for the body of Uriel are incredible. He looks like a cross between Sloth and Gluttony from Se7en: he oozes pus, he’s sweaty and you can practically smell him. Although the men know that the evil entity must be exorcised from the body, they still decide to simply move him somewhere far from their village in the hopes that this will be enough to end the negative impact their village is feeling. Unfortunately, this is a far worse decision than just leaving Uriel to wait for another Cleaner and now Pedro and Jimi must find a way to, essentially, prevent the devil from being born into our world.
As the brothers embark on the worst road trip ever, Pedro decides that he needs to rescue his two sons, so it’s off to his ex-wife’s house where a truly unexpected attack ignites a constant feeling of terror and anxiety that will stay with us until the end. As Pedro (an excellent Ezeuiel Rodríguez) desperately tries to corral both of his children, we learn that Jair, the eldest son, is a child with autism. While this not only makes it more difficult to convince him to leave the house, the autism will also play a role later on in the film. Ultimately, a child with autism isn’t necessary to the storyline, but it has been interesting to watch the horror genre incorporate autism into stories as more than just a Rainman type character. It should also be noted that there are two animal deaths, two child deaths, and one child is physically assaulted. Runga pulls absolutely no punches when it comes to illustrating just how important it is that the devil is stopped from escaping Uriel’s body. At no point in When Evil Lurks does the viewer ever feel safe, and anytime a character does, it’s always a poor choice.
Jimi enlists the help of Mirta, a woman who not only knows exactly what they are up against, but she also has the knowledge and tools to kill it. She is also the one who notices when Jair is possessed: because he’s nonverbal, it’s not as obvious with him. She explains that demons can get lost or stuck in the mind of someone with autism because they can’t figure their mind out. Again, this is mostly an interesting possession factoid, but when Jair begins speaking like a neurotypical child, that’s when everyone realizes how powerful the devil is getting.
Mirta (Silvina Sabaté) is not only a source of knowledge, but she also provides a much-needed piece of stability. The evil feeds on fear and fear is oozing out of everyone’s pores, especially when they get to an elementary school where a group of children pose an interesting conundrum. In fact, the finale of the film echoes the same terrifying conundrum of Who Can Kill A Child when Mirta says, “Evil likes children and children like evil.” To watch a father literally fighting with children in an effort to save his own children is such an amazing cluster fuck of a Catch 22 and Rodríguez does a stellar job of balancing fear with the primal urge to not only survive but protect his own kids.
This is the kind of rural horror that sticks with you. Runga has no qualms about visiting violence upon anyone who may be in the way of the devil and it’s this commitment to the storytelling that really drives home the severity of the situation. Teetering on exploitative, the movie manages to stay just this side of unsettling before veering into gore for the sake of gore territory. There is a constant level of tension throughout the film that plays exceptionally well with Runga’s visual storytelling style. On the surface, it all looks bare bones, but this movie is anything but.
The ending, while truly grim, may be the best part of the film simply because it IS so depressing. When Evil Lurks is an unapologetic possession film that gives zero fucks about polite society and storytelling limitations and it’s all the better for it.
In cinemas now and on Shudder October 27.