When Evil Lurks
Dir. Demián Rugna (2023)
Two brothers kill a possessed man and accidentally spread the evil to the nearby village.
Director Demián Rugna made his name with Terrified, one of the scariest movies in recent memory that is not nearly as popular as it should be. His first film proved that he was capable of creating taut, exhilarating scares that leaned heavily into folk horror and possession. I have been excited to check out his newest film, When Evil Lurks, since I received the screener, but unfortunately had to put it off until after I finished the most recent 31 Days of Halloween list. Now that I've finally gotten the chance to watch it... holy shit. It was everything I had hoped it would be and more.
Brothers Jimi (Demián Salomón) and Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) are tasked with ridding their village of a possessed man. They decide to take him far away so that his evil will be released somewhere else, but their plan fails as their action quickly comes back to haunt everyone they know. Possession works like a virus, spreading from animals to humans (and back) and destroying everything in its path. Pedro attempts to rescue his children and get them out of town before the demon comes, unfortunately leading evil directly to their door. The demon, who preys on people's worst fears, will stop at nothing to infect and kill everyone that Pedro holds dear.
This one feels like an instant classic, one that will hit home for so many people and will stand the test of time. It's gory, br00tal, and contains a few seriously jaw-dropping moments. When Evil Lurks breaks taboos left and right, and just when you think it won't go there, it crosses that line quickly before hopping over the next one as well. It's extremely gory, making Rugna's previous film seem tame in comparison (and that's not an easy task). It's also exceptionally disturbing, a hard to watch film that is one of the better Shudder releases in recent memory.
Rugna has created an interesting world, one in which the possessed, called "rottens," are not uncommon, the churches have ceased to exist, and the government is set up to deal with the growing threat of the zombie-like possessed. There are rules for survival, seven commandments that must be followed in order to avoid becoming one of them. Unlike in other possession films, where the soul of the possessed is really the only thing that's up for grabs, Rugna has upped the stakes tremendously, as the fate of everyone in town is up for grabs. It's rare that someone comes up with an idea that hasn't ever really been done before, but Rugna has done so in this film and it's thrilling to watch.
I've long been a proponent of foreign horror, especially in modern day when the caliber of releases are every bit of what's being produced here in America. Rugna has shown once again that he has an incredible mind for horror, and this one will get under your skin like few others. Between the "oh shit" moments and the general sense of dread that he creates throughout, there's very little not to like about this movie. If you can suspend your disbelief that a world such as this could exist, it'll hit you right between the eyes with the punches it refuses to pull.
Who this movie is for: Possession movie fans, Foreign horror lovers, Dog moms
Bottom line: When Evil Lurks is gory and dreadful, a masterclass in taking a new concept and running with it. Writer/director Demián Rugna is one of the hottest new faces in horror, and he's delivered a vicious one-two punch with Terrified and When Evil Lurks. Where that first film failed to stick the landing, this one gets 10's from the judges. Excellent flick, not for the faint of heart. Or dog lovers. Or parents.