Not rated, because Shudder ain't a fan of marking everything on its platform as R. This one is brutal. There's some Eli-Rothy stuff going on here with body horror and gore. Also, the deaths are a lot. I mean, some of that comes from the subversion of expectation when it comes to death, but that needs to be considered. Also, there's some Spanish swearing. I mean, it's still swearing. This is a violent as heck movie and you need to consider that. Some of it is also suicidal horror, which is touchy at best. Then there's the rear nudity of a child. It's a lot.
DIRECTOR: Demian Rugna
Lots of stuff in this filler paragraph. I was planning on being done with horror come November. But then, that wouldn't take into account the stuff I was watching leading up to Halloween or on Halloween. I'm actually probably going to take a bit of a blog break after catching up on all of the horror stuff and catch up on my TV watching. Also, Henson told me that I had to watch this and I don't have Shudder, so I had to watch this with him. So this got thrown in there. Don't worry, I finished Green Room on Halloween. All I have to do is convince my wife to watch one horror movie before we go to bed tonight and I'll have the perfect Halloween breakdown. Also, happy All Saints Day. I wrote this on Halloween just because I know that I won't be able to tomorrow. Do you appreciate the lengths I go for you guys?
I was emotionally all over the place with this movie. For a while, I thought that I was going to hate it. I heard about this from an Instagram Reel, so I had incredibly high hopes about the movie. The beginning of the movie, I wasn't on board. It's not like this movie doesn't have a personality of its own. But it also read really hard like Eli Roth's Cabin Fever, a movie I absolutely cannot stand. If you have seen that movie and loved it, good. Continue liking it. I know lots of people who genuinely love that movie. I'm just not into the heavy gore stuff and the first third of the movie reads as a heavy gore movie. But let's be honest, this is borderline just an Evil Dead movie from Argentina. (I know I just said it has a personality of its own. I stand by both statements.) What starts off as a body horror thing continues as a body horror thing, but with a lot more plot than I was possibly ready for. Where When Evil Lurks succeeds is the fact that it goes for the unexpected. Honestly, every single blog I write should have a spoiler warning attached to it, but I am going to talk about the shocking moments of this movie. I stress that because this movie rules because of the shocking elements of the film.
There's jsomething so sacred about kids in movies. I get it. Perhaps it is the notion that there are some lines that filmmakers won't cross. Killing off the kid characters seems so taboo, but it has created a weird storytelling problems for most movies. Most thrillers and horror movies include kids. It raises our heartrates just a little bit more. But if you watch enough of these movies (which I don't necessarily recommend because I'm always worried about the desensitized in our community), you know the kid is going to end up just fine. Honestly, there's a kid in every Jurassic Park movie and all but one end up fine. (There's a cutaway of a featured extra in The Lost World: Jurassic Park that implies that something with compies happened to her.) But When Evil Lurks decided to tell a horror story, it was going to go right after the kids. Really, the first shocking moment is the ax to the face. The only problem? It was on the poster. So the first really upsetting surprise death is the little girl and the dog. And oh-my-goodness, is it a lot. Like, me, wide eyes. Hand over mouth. I couldn't process it. There's something really weird about it, but that's when I was on board the movie. (Trust me, I'm not thrilled with how that makes me look either.)
But then there's the other kid. Ther's a certain degree of "Fool Me Once" going on here that I honestly failed at. The second kid is a major character. A lot of the film is based on the notion of taking care of this kid who has just been through a lot. The possessed mother comes back, kidnaps him. Now, Rugna loves to mess with tropes. I base this only on this movie, but he's really good at it. Possessed mom kidnaps the kid in front of one of the main characters. We see her jump off the balcony, but is missing before they hit the ground. The protagonists form up and go to rescue this kid and it feels like the mission for the third act. We know how this is supposed to go. There's going to be a stand-off between Pedro, Jimi, and the possessed mom for the safety of the child. But does the movie do that? Nope. Jimi, about ten minutes later, just finds the possessed mom, feeding on brains of the little kid like he's an open bag of popcorn. Trust me. It's as upsetting as it sounds. Twice in this movie I did the hand over mouth thing.
Now, there's gotta be some analysis of who we are as people that we watch these movies. I talked a little about this with my blog on Funny Games. Funny Games makes you culpable for the events of the movie. It is a commentary on the odd voyeurism that happens with horror movies. I acknowledge that horror might be one of the least healthy genres. It's odd, because I want my kids to watch horror so that they can process scary things without having nightmares. I don't show it to them because, as intellectual as it makes me sound to say that I want them to understand that it is only a story, I'm not itching to traumatize them with movies that they don't want to watch. But Rugna is doing something fundamental with film. Yeah, his goal is the shock. I don't know how much of a message he has (but I do want to talk about that as well, despite the fact that I'm running out of time). I know that he's going for the shock. But a lot of entertainment is about either fulfilling expectations or defying expectartions.
The notion of fulfilling expectations isn't something to scoff at. If a movie's goal is to fulfill expectations, there has to be something special about the film in terms of presentation and quality Most movies aim to fulfill expectations. There's something very comfortable about things fitting into formulae. Defying expectations also can lead to quality, but the defiance of that expectation gives us something to talk about. Proof of that? I'm doing that right now. I think I really liked When Evil Lurks not because I wanted to see an Evil Dead style Argentinian film. It's because those moments really shocked me. When Rugna went in a totally blasphemous direction when it came to storytelling, I knew that nothing was safe. There was no concrete answer for how this story was going to go. There's value in that. It's the reason that we don't watch the same magician over and over again or repeat the same stand up bit. There's value in surprise. Yeah, is it gross that a possessed mom ate her kid's brain like it was popcorn? Definitely. I don't want that in my real life and I would probably be a mentally healthier person if I never saw that. But I also had fun with it.
I will acknowledge that When Evil Lurks gets a bit too complicated at times. I suppose that I have to coin a new subgenre of film for this movie: the horror mystical realism. This is a world where possession is almost synonymous with epidemic. I'm kind of breaking one of the many rules that this movie stablishes for its villain, the Rotten. The movie establishes quite clearly that, although it physically looks like some kind of contagion that causes a body to bloat and become monstrous, this is something from the devil. It's proven by its ending with the birth of a demonic child. But because the world knows about The Rotten (despite, for some reason, most of the cast being skeptical about this Rotten), it means that everyone knows the stakes when we're kind of just left to figure stuff out. It almost has that folk horror element where people know stuff about the role of nature that we're meant to discover through context. I'll admit it. I didn't know what was going on for a while in this movie. There's a guy cut in half in the woods. His job is to kill the Rotten Uriel? I didn't understand why Uriel wasn't supposed to be killed by someone else. But by the end of the movie, I feel like a quasi-expert about the Rotten. It also just meant that there was a necessarily learning curve on the movie that I imagine would frustrate a lot of viewers.
There's two kinda / sorta deep things that I want to talk about. 1) The end of churches. 2) The possession of the infirmed. I'm not sure I have a lot to say on them at the time. I'll just keep yammering and hope something smart comes out. The movie really goes out of its way to mention the church thing. Part of it comes with the territory with the mystical realism. I want to say that this is accusatory to the church, but we almost don't get enough information about how the churches led to the downfall of civilization. If I'm making that analytical leap, which this blog tends to do, this may be a message about the decline of faith in the 21st Century. I know. It's causing the elderly to bundle up sweaters a little tighter, but it really is part of the culture war. It's weird being left-leaning and attempting to maintain faith. But it is interesting because if faith is real and God is real, as I certainly hope he is, it would mean that the mechanics of his creation would keep spinning, regardless of institutions to explain and worship him. This also means that the devil stuff would be basically unopposed. I don't get the notion that the filmmakers are "Run to churches" with this movie though. It's almost like an interesting headscratcher. It's kind of a cool concept with an even more depressing deeper meaning.
There's something really upsetting about Jair. I mean, it's super interesting as a storytelling element, but seeing an austistic child being a challenge for a demon is something that needs to be examined. This is that analytical leap I was warning you about. Part of the story is that we kind of treat the infirmed as if they are possessed by demons. Pedro loves Jair, but he's also the distant father. There's this B-story code running in the background of When Evil Lurks that tells us that Pedro isn't a good dad. He's the one who isn't around. We support Pedro because he's the protagonist of the movie. But from what we understand, he's a guy who completely lacks conviction. He's surviving and he's kind of looking out for number one. One of the more moral things he does is that he tries to evacuate his children from the imminent arrival of the Rotten. (Really, it seems like he's just bringing the Rotten into his ex-wife's home. Pedro kind of sucks at this.) But he tries to be a good dad to Jair too late. This is a read on my part, but he can't tell the difference between his autistic son and a demon possessing his son. I do like the line that teases the notion that demons are trapped within a body that they don't know how to control. I mean, the Rotten gets over that pretty quickly. Still, interesting storytelling.
It's very good. I can see this being the upsetting movie of the year. I don't know if I love it. There are things that are pulling me both ways. The rules are great, but they don't make sense. I believe that if you tried to explain them, it would nerf the movie a bit hard. But it is also frustrating knowing that you really can't do anything about The Rotten. There's that similarity with It Follows, but I think It Follows pulls it off a little better. Still, thank goodness for a compelling narrative with genuine surprises that kept me on my toes.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.