'When Evil Lurks' review: An unrelenting demonic thriller
Courtesy of Shudder/IFC Films
A demonic thriller that’s unrelenting as it is incredibly disturbing, Demián Rugna’s “When Evil Lurks” is the movie “The Exorcist: Believer” thinks it was. Except “When Evil Lurks” doesn’t create images of projectile vomit, bodily fluids, or a priest with holy water saying “the power of Christ compels you” repeatedly. This film isn’t interested in all the cliché mechanics that’s defined the genre, on the contrary, it wants to rewrite the rulebook and throw a few wild curveballs in for good measure.
It follows adult brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodírguez) and Jaime (Demián Salomón) who find out someone in their community has been infected with “a rotten.” A rotten is another word for a human incubator wherein a demon gestates inside waiting for an opportunity to wreak havoc. We quickly understand the severity of this situation as the brothers visit the sheriff and chastise him for his lack of communication. Next, Pedro drives to his ex-wives house (who has a restraining order against him) and pleads to take her and the children far away. It’s evident this “rotten” has him spooked. And, as we quickly find out (often in brutal and gobsmacking ways), he’s got a right to be.
In “When Evil Lurks,” demonic possession is airborne like a virus that’ll infect anyone within its orbit. Unlike “The Exorcist” films where the entity chooses one poor victim to torment, here everyone is a target and it recontextualizes the modern exorcism thriller into a horrifying statement on our disease infested world. Rugna doesn’t shy away from the disgusting practical effects and shocking treatment of both animals and children. He’s basically testing casual audiences' willingness to go along for the ride.
Releasing in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic puts another sense of renowned urgency on the film and its inhabitants. The filmmakers also bring a raw authenticity as it’s clear these characters are making decisions based on their instincts rather than what genre logic usually dictates. But as the “rules” of the “rotten” play out in real time (like, for example, how are animals possessed?), “When Evil Lurks” doesn’t hold back. It highlights the consequences of blind trust and the power of fellowship during indescribable acts of menace. The final shot is a gut punch realization that, just when you think the movie has been figured out, it still finds a way of messing with your head.
WHEN EVIL LURKS debuts on Shudder, Friday October 27th.