Unsettling and already divisive among horror fans, When Evil Lurks is a film that is fully aware of what it’s doing. There’s hardly any buildup and it hops from one scenario to another in a plot that many will compare to other possession films. However, there are some fresher ideas hidden amongst the corpses splayed throughout the running time.
In the middle of the night, two brothers, Pedro (Ezequiel Rodriguez) and Jimi (Demián Salomón) hear a noise and wisely wait until dawn to investigate. Immediately, we’re shown a beautiful landscape and the rural countryside right at sunrise and understand that in another film, in another life for these characters, this could be a peaceful place. But alas, this is a horror movie, and they discover a corpse with strange belongings. They begin to question their neighbors, including a sick and deformed man known as a "rotten," who is unsafe to touch and apparently will remain a threat to the land everyone on it unless disposed of. Those with dark senses of humor will appreciate how the struggle is framed as the pair try to keep the bloated figure in a sheet and get him to a truck, only to lose him as they pass a school, allowing the contamination to continue.
Early on, as the characters discussed the process of dealing with a “rotten" and argued amongst themselves, I felt like I were watching a dream. One of the brothers attempts to explain the situation to his ex and her new husband, urging them to leave town before this escaped evil engulfs everything, but things appear to go from bad to worse. Deaths occur, the police are called, and strangely, upon hearing gunshots, they turn their patrol car around and drive away as if their role in the story has concluded. If this film is viewed as a nightmare in which dialogue serves solely for the dreamers' benefit and not the audiences, then the scenarios work better. What feels fresh isn’t some new complex lore, but rather just helplessness. It’s this oppression that writer/director Demián Rugna understands well.
Pedro drives a portion of his family away, constantly pursued by those who are possessed, screaming and struggling to understand what he’s dealing with, and so do we. A person can feel alone and helpless watching this movie, partially because the rules about the “rotten,” and possessed aren’t easily spelled out, nor does the world feel natural. The town feels just as empty as the farm until a tragedy occurs, and then they only seem to show concern for the aftermath. By this point, the rotten include a number of kids that stalk, manipulate, and murder like distant cousins of The Children of the Corn. No one is spared and as the viewer discovers, one of Pedro’s children is autistic and doesn’t even want to leave the car when night time comes. It is a unique situation that mirrors the more natural scenarios parents often find themselves in.
Visually, the film is well-shot and effectively portrays sunlight seem as a harsh element that only highlights any violence more clearly. The actors valiantly push forward with exposition that primarily instructs rather than elaborates. As I’ve mentioned before, I appreciate this film more as a dream, and the way the characters act encapsulates that very effectively. It would have been even more harrowing if the film had shown things from only one of the brothers' perspectives, but I’d be remiss to deny the film’s power. You feel this strange world falling apart as some take it less seriously than others. Despite the few questions I have for a second viewing, I believe I haven't taken possession more seriously because the ideas in this film work quite well.
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