Saturday 28 October 2023

Shudder Saturday: When Evil Lurks (2023)

For those who saw it, Terrified was probably one of the best horror movies of 2017. More people still need to see it though. Anyone impressed by When Evil Lurks, a film by writer-director Demián Ruga that manages to equal his earlier film, will have something extra to look forward to if they are a complete newcomer to his work. The two films together show someone capable of delivering intense horror experiences in very different ways, one being creepy and atmospheric while the other is visceral and punctuated by moments of shocking violence.

Starting in a small village, this is the tale of a possessed individual ready to give birth to an incarnation of evil. Some people try to improve the situation by moving the body far away from any populated area, but they lose it in transit. That starts a race against the clock, with brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) and Jimi (Demián Salomón) attempting to stop the spread of the evil as they try to protect family members.

Much more of a straightforward flowing narrative than his previous feature, not including his segment in Satanic Hispanic (which I have yet to see), this is a film that prowls across the screen like a dangerous animal. Viewers soon start to learn the rules of engagement, making everything that bit more intense when you realise how much trouble our protagonists are in.

The cast do a good job, spending most of their time trying to conquer a sense of rising panic as they figure out a way to stay out of the grasping clutches of a growing evil presence, but it also helps that they weren't too familiar to me (a comment on my own ignorance of their work, not a comment on however many film roles they may have had before this). There's a feeling that anyone could be removed from the action at any moment, and nobody seems destined for a life lived happily ever after. Rodríguez is a good lead though, and his character is the constant driving force of the film. That's not to say that he makes the right decisions, but everything he does is understandable and with good intentions.

Rugna seems to be having a lot of fun here, having given himself a perfect storyline that can allow him to set up some stunning set-pieces (and at least one moment here had my jaw hitting the floor in disbelief at the grimness and savagery of it). This is for viewers with a strong stomach, as well as those who don't mind films in which children are just as endangered as adults, and it certainly lives up to the hype I've been hearing for the past couple of months.

There are some minor complaints, including some supporting characters not given enough to do, and a third act that is quite a step down from everything preceding it, but I was pretty consistently impressed by this. It feels a bit different from many other horror films out there, it's genuinely disturbing at times, and it solidifies Rugna as a formidable talent within the horror genre.


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