When Evil Lurks REVIEW – The Cruelty is the Point

When Evil Lurks review
When Evil Lurks review

Director Demián Rugna has a bone to pick with decency. Within the opening moments of When Evil Lurks, Rugna establishes that brutality is the law of the land. A law that is enforced with brutal prejudice.

Set within the remote Argentinian countryside, brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) & Jimmy (Demián Salomón) discover their neighbor’s dismembered body. When they deliver the news to the victim’s family, they learn that another family member has become “rotten,” otherwise known as “possessed by a demon.” To rid their land of this blight, the brothers attempt to discard the rotten one but are told that killing them by traditional means will release the demonic entity, allowing it to run rampant and infect those it can cause the most damage to. Your family, friends, pets, and yourself are screwed..

Early on, the audience quickly learns the various rules of handling a possession and the concept of “cleaners,” mystics who know how to kill the demonic presences properly. Rather than bogging down the film with lecture-like exposition, Rugna prefers to show the audience the first-hand ramifications of these fantastical concepts to gruesome effect. By presenting a demonic presence jumping from host to host, like a virus, this gives the film’s premise a bit more bite. I vastly prefer this approach to the possession genre’s pitfall of lengthy bouts of religious groveling, which is kept to a minimum here.

What ultimately makes When Evil Lurks one of the best films of the year is Rugna’s signature brand of continually pushing the boundaries of brutality, yet never at the expense of a lack of examining the human toll at the center of his films. Within the opening moments of Rugna’s 2017 paranormal horror film Terrified, he proved his knack for shockingly effective scares and, more importantly, the casual nature with which they unfold, which is emphasized even more so in When Evil Lurks.

Somehow, describing When Evil Lurks as the most feel-bad film in years still feels like an understatement. To go into a Rugna film under the pretense that often protected groups in horror, such as pets or children, are off limits to the carnage that will ensue would be a mistake. Everyone and everything is on the table for corruption and, more devastatingly, torment.

The audience’s first taste of the film’s stomach-churning horrors begins with the brothers discovering the rotten one. Imagine the bound pasta victim and heroin addict from David Fincher’s Se7en blended into one bulbous and sore-covered mess. If that doesn’t give you a sense of the depth of detail in the practical work on display here, just be assured that things get much more gruesome. Providing further examples of the film’s carnage would ruin the numerous nasty surprises this singular brand of evil has in store for audiences.

We’ve previously seen directors who attempt to push the boundaries of an R-rating, often to varying degrees of success. These lesser endeavors lead with their extreme nature, often at the expense of their other pieces. However, in the case of When Evil Lurks, the brutality within is a byproduct of the world and is affecting those whom we come to care for, making it all the more nauseating.

As extreme as the film is, it is never at the expense of the film’s core: a story about brothers, fathers, and family. Rugna facilitates this balancing of family drama, a tumultuous past, and the actual demonic horrors themselves with bleak efficiency. The ease with which Rugna strings these elements into a barbed wire bow placed atop the bloody bouquet of the best feel-bad film of the year speaks to his unique craft. If you are a horror fan who yearns for a movie that continually tests their resilience for torment, look no further; you’ll find nothing better this year.

Review screener provided

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When Evil Lurks review
Verdict
Demián Rugna has crafted not only the best “feel bad” horror film of the year, but a uniquely brutal possession film that ditches the genre's usual religious jargon in favor of a viral twist.
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