What exactly does writer/director Demián Rugna have against children? Whatever it is he is certainly not letting them off easy in his new film ‘When Evil Lurks.’ In fact, if you’re sensitive to violence happening to children, animals, or elderly ladies you can stop right here. I am not, and I could not have enjoyed Rugna’s follow up to 2017’s ‘Terrified’ more! Rugna’s latest film is beautifully shot, extremely tense, truly scary, and gory as hell!
The film begins as brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) and Jimmy (Demián Salomon) stumble upon half of a human body as they make their way across some farmland to check on a neighbor. They quickly learn that the disembodied man was something of an exorcist sent to help end the suffering of a local boy who has been possessed by an entity everyone refers to as “the rotten.” This must be done very carefully and according to a series of rules so as to not accidentally unleash it on the rest of the town. It is, of course, not an easy task. Attempting to get rid of the “rotten” in the wrong way will only cause it to possess anyone nearby and spread. This type of possession is a plague that can spread from person to person, and even infect multiple hosts at a time.
If you aren’t from Argentina you might be wondering if this is actual Argentinian folklore. At the Fantastic Fest post screening Q&A Rugna addressed that question, telling those in attendance that it was, in fact, lore that he made up himself. He was inspired by something he noticed happening in the rural parts of his country. As farmers were using pesticides the children who worked the fields were getting cancer in shocking numbers. As such, the “rotten” in ‘When Evil Lurks’ affects children far more strongly than it does adults. The results are truly chilling. Families turning against each other, pets becoming dangerous, and the rotten taking over so thoroughly that no one knows who is unsafe until it is too late.
From the opening scenes it is clear that we’re going to get the gore we came for in this film. The initial possessed individual is a giant ball of pus and it only gets more intense from there. Let this be your warning not to enjoy a meal while watching this one. In addition to the goo you might as well go ahead and get our your “what the fuck?!” clicker because once those moments start they don’t let up. The unhinged creativity of the violence is held together by a strong story and characters you quickly grow to care about. Rodriguez and Salomon as leads are strong anchors to a cast made up largely of children.
What I have come to appreciate most about Rugna’s work is that while he is charming me with clever and enthralling stories, he’s also scaring the crap out of me, which isn’t an easy task. He is able to create haunting images that will follow you home, waiting in the back of your mind until you turn off the lights for the night when they pop out again to remind you that you watched something really fucked up that day!
‘When Evil Lurks’ had its US Premiere at Fantastic Fest and will have a theatrical release by IFC Films on October 6. It will be released on Shudder on October 27.
Fantastic Fest: ‘When Evil Lurks’ is Extremely Tense, Truly Scary, and Gory As Hell