Toronto 2023 Review: WHEN EVIL LURKS, Absolutely No One Is Safe
Gun shots ring out late at night, somewhere in the middle of rural Argentina. Brothers Pedro and Jimi head out the end of their property the next morning to investigate and discover a body, or, parts of a body. Further to their investigation they discover a Rotten over on the next property, a person infected with a demon for so long they are mostly a festering blob of flesh. It is only a matter of time before the demon possessing this poor soul is born and wreaks havoc on the local community. However, when they and their neighbour Ruiz attempt to get rid of the infected they unwittingly release the demon into the community, putting everyone at grave risk. It may already be too late.
When Evil Lurks (Cuando Acecha La Maldad) is the new film from Argentine director Demian Rugna following up his international breakout hit Terrified (Aterrados). Rugna mercillesly drops you right into rural Argentina with very little pretense, wasting no time to get the ball rolling. It reflects the urgency of the situation: evil is about to beset upon the land and if everyone is to protect their lives and livelihood they have to act quickly.
Despite local beliefs being the source of their conviction in their haste the three men ignore the rules of eviction and/or exorcism. Did you know? There are things you should and should not do when expelling a demon. But are they merely superstitions or facts? Others who should have believed would have acted quicker and now they act as if it is too late. Local authorities have already wasted enough time, ignoring the pleas from those asking or help. From there it is full speed ahead when the brothers realize they are not safe yet and Pedro rushes to save his family from this evil.
Rugna is so successful as a horror director because he employs an healthy balance of anticipation and surprise in his films. There are moments of anticipation, moments that he is building up for you, as if to say, “Here you go. Here is what I am going to do next. You know it, and I know it”, and they still - STILL! - surprise the hell out of you when he does it. You know what’s coming but you’re still not ready for it. Other events happen with such abruptness you almost do not have time to yell out in surprise, like distracting you with a shiny object in one hand while preparing to clip you with the other.
And the gore, oh the gore. Everything is done in camera and Rugna once again enlisted the skills of his effects artist from Terrified, Marcos Berta, to bring amazing gore to the screen. Combined with some sick production (creature) design from Laura Aguerrebehere horror fans are going to be very happy. There are set pieces in this film that will haunt us for the rest of our days. There is violence so casually executed that we cannot stop thinking about it. Trust us when we say that When Evil Lurks will shake you to your core.
Hidden amongst the panic and death there does appear to be a subtext of failed husbandhood?
Pedro has been kept away from his family, that much is clear in the ensuing chaos as he rushes into town to save them. We do not know why his marriage failed, we do not know why his wife had gone to great lengths to keep him away from his children. We can guess, given his predisposed reaction to anything is elevated intensity. So, he is a failed husband, but, is he a failed father? You will have to see for yourselves.
There also appears to be a push to respecting your elders. In Terrified it was a trio of seniors who took on an embedded evil. Here, other elders can be counted on, some for their experiences and others for their expertise. Do we want to know how often something like this has happened that you can be counted on to dispense knowledge on fighting demons? There are rules in this situation, break a rule and you’re fucked. Pedro and Jimi, know the rules but perhaps in the moment were too panicked to ensure they had covered all their bases. The point is, your elders are wise, listen to them. By chance they tell you how to defeat demons, make notes.
We were a bit shocked when Rugna reminded us at the premiere that it has been six years since Terrified. One, where did that time go (the boom boom times notwithstanding)? Two, that is an awfully long time for someone so skilled at scaring the bejeezus out of us to wait to make their next movie. Having knocked it out of the park once again with When Evil Lurks we truly hope for our friend that they will not have to wait as long to make their next terrific dose of terror.
Addendum: American humorist W.C. Fields coined the axiom, “Never work with children or animals”. Rugna chose to work with both and the results are going to scare the hell out of you.