Starring: Ezequiel Rodríguez, Demián Salomón and Silvina Sabater
Directed by: Demián Rugna
Running Time: 99 Minutes
Our Score: 4 out of 5 Stars
On the same weekend that “When Evil Lurks” hits theaters, audiences will also be treated to “The Exorcist: Believer,” which is kind of ironic. That’s because 1973’s “The Exorcist” created the book on demon possession tropes. While I’m sure “Believer” has the book in hand throughout most of its film, “When Evil Lurks” clearly skimmed through and decided to make its own unflinching and unforgiving rules.
The Argentinian film opens on two brothers in a rural village hearing gunshots in the night. They speculate what it is, but decide to investigate in the morning. Their investigation leads them to half a corpse and then to a house where they find a putrid, bloated, rotting, but still alive human referred to as “the rotten.” The woman of the household urges them to leave it alone even though the obese creature is on the verge of birthing evil itself. The brothers also suspect the evil inside is the reason their rural village has been befallen by death, bad luck, bitter dirt, wilted crops and starving livestock. We eventually learn that a demon inhabits the rotten and simply killing the rotten unleashes the demon to go after other prey.
While the demon possession rules are a bit confusing, we’re told throughout that there are seven rules when encountering evil. Seven is a big number in Christianity, whether it’s how it took God seven days to create the Earth or the Book of Revelation in which there are seven seals. The film is rich in Christian theology, but a lot of times the rotten seem like more than just demons from Hell. There are several contagion themes, including the obvious idea that you truly never know who has been possessed until it’s too late. I also found it interesting that the gut reaction of every man in the film was to immediately shoot and kill the rotten (a big no-no in the seven rules). Meanwhile, the women know of the seven rules, know what to do and ultimately hold the potential key to ending the reign of terror. Themes aside, the movie is absolutely brutal.
From the corpse that you can smell from the screen at the beginning to the visually gruesome deaths of several characters throughout the film, “When Evil Lurks” could care less about your sense and sensibilities, much less your morals. Once we understand that evil will kill and cannibalize any human it comes across, every scene has a palpable tension, especially since animals, children and women seem to be the favorite target of the rotten. Adding to the shocking effect is practical effects that add to the general unease sprinkled throughout the film.
“When Evil Lurks” is an unholy assault on your senses with sudden nihilistic violence and an overall feeling of hopelessness. There is no silver lining or light at the end of the tunnel for our characters. Early on we understand that nothing good will happen and that no one will be saved. In a lot of ways that’s what makes “When Evil Lurks” a massive surprise. Even when it reveals its bleak cards, we want to see how it uses them.