By Brendan Graham
Director Demián Rugna’s 2017 film - TERRIFIED quickly became one of my favorite horror films. It’s a supernatural thrill ride with unsettling imagery, a tense atmosphere, and some of the hardest-hitting jumpscares I’ve ever experienced. The sequence with the dead little boy at the table? That’s the stuff of my nightmares. Naturally, I was excited when I heard he was trying his hand at a possession tale with his follow-up feature WHEN EVIL LURKS, and I’m happy to report that it delivers the gory, gruesome goods.
In a small, rural town, brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) and Jimmy (Demián Salomón) stumble upon a horrifying revelation - a demonic infection has taken root in a nearby farmhouse, spreading its horrific influence to the local livestock. Desperate to rid their land of this sinister presence, they embark on a mission to complete an exorcism. However, their hasty and ill-informed attempts backfire, setting off a terrifying wave of possessions throughout their close-knit community. Now, they must race against time to escape the encroaching evil that transforms and corrupts anyone it touches.
What sets WHEN EVIL LURKS apart is its approach to the possession narrative. Instead of ending with an exorcism, it begins with one. The ensuing chaos arises from the disregard for established rules, revealing the far-reaching consequences of the brothers' poor planning, particularly from the actions of Pedro. Within this universe, rich lore already surrounds the possessed or rotten as a character refers to them. Instead of wasting time with most characters questioning their existence, and having to prove there is a conflict etc, etc, We can jump straight into the conflict without much exposition, and that was also pretty refreshing.
Rugna fearlessly pushes the boundaries of brutal violence, leaving no one truly safe in WHEN EVIL LURKS. Consider this a warning that children and animals are not exempt from the chaos; they endure some of the most brutally graphic scenes. The kitchen encounter with the little girl is etched in my memory and will likely stay there for a long while as it was genuinely shocking how quickly the situation escalated. The practical effects are executed well, providing a treat for enthusiasts of gore who will delight in the array of macabre displays scattered throughout.
The major issue I had with WHEN EVIL LURKS, is a minor one and more of a personal preference. The story primarily relies on its horror elements to carry it forward, but as it reaches its conclusion, it often requires its characters to act in ways that make absolutely no sense, all in the name of intensifying the horror and in doing so, it loses its power towards the end. I’m all for those yelling at the screen moments from time to time, but Pedro’s actions toward the end just dumbfounded me. However, based on his actions that jumpstarted all of the chaos, I really shouldn’t have been that surprised.
WHEN EVIL LURKS delivers a gut-wrenching and mean-spirited thrill ride that dares to challenge genre taboos, drenching the screen in horrific and shocking scenes of violence. While I believe the film didn't quite nail the ending, this blood-soaked journey is certainly well worth your time.
WHEN EVIL LURKS is now available to stream through Shudder.