Is it a possession case, an Evil Dead-style zombie flick, or a straight up monster movie? The new film from horror mainstay Demian Rugna (Terrified, Satanic Hispanics), When Evil Lurks, would appear to be a strange mixture of all three. Set in Argentina, in a world where the “rotten”—also known as the “possessed ones”—are completely commonplace, there is an admirable amount of worldbuilding happening in this gory genre-smashing delight. I am not entirely convinced that all of it works—specifically, a final act that goes for cerebral messaging rather than frenetic fireworks—but I will be damned if When Evil Lurks is not a monstrous good time at the movies.
One dark night, two brothers (Ezequiel Rodriguez, Demian Salomon) hear loud noises coming from the forest nearby. They bring along their trusted dog the following morning, only to discover random pieces of human remains suspected to be devoured by a puma. Being that this was found on a neighboring land, they head straight to the source: farmer Luis (Luis Ziembrowski) and his wife. Rather than going straight to the cops, these men at least pay the courtesy of going directly to the landowner instead. What they discover there is horrifying indeed. A bloated man, disgustingly about to burst with pus, lays in bed on the cusp of death. This nasty bit of imagery recalls James Gunn’s Slither, and is nearly as gross.
They can’t just kill the thing, lest it infect anything in the vicinity. Nevertheless, like some weird curse, the influence of the “rotted” spreads across the nearby land, corrupting it cruelly. Animals begin to act strangely. Paranoia balloons to an all-time high. Spouses turn on one another. There is little they can do to stop the spread of the cancerous possessed. Nary a priest or exorcism in sight within a possession movie was inspired, admirably serving up something more fresh than vomiting girls or levitating bodies. Who needs any of that when the horrors here basically speak volumes?
When Evil Lurks ends up being a pretty mean film. Children get mauled by rabid dogs, and the “demon” only grows more vicious when attempted for transportation. As always important to note, there is a dead dog alert here for those especially susceptible to seeing man’s best friend dispatched on the big screen. There are rules that come along with “the rotten,” though their importance wavers and never seems to quite stick the landing. Demian Rugna has a clear vision for the kind of post-apocalyptic worldview he was interested in depicting. While it doesn’t always work, the sheer audacity to push the envelope in the way this film frequently does should be applauded.
Foreign horror is often the most divisive by design, with a barrier of subtitles instantly built that alienates the lazier audience members. I can absolutely see When Evil Lurks being remade somewhere down the line to try to encapsulate its appeal—whether or not that would be for the better remains to be seen. The Spanish-language flick appears specifically built around Argentinian culture, and may be difficult to replicate. When Evil Lurks should fill the quota for a spooky-season Shudder watch that leaves a sense of gripping unease once the credits roll.
When Evil Lurks infects Shudder subscribers when it debuts to the streamer on Friday, October 6th.