When Evil Lurks (2023) (Review)

Offering a unique and depraved spin on the possessed story structure, ‘When Evil Lurks‘ doesn’t hold back on any punches, guaranteeing a cult following for years to come.

The fall weather’s biggest strength is the influx of horror movies we get along the way, with one of the more recent additions, ‘When Evil Lurks’, gaining traction in the horror fanatic space. Set in a secluded village, the film follows two brothers, played by Ezequiel Rodríguez (Pedro) and Demián Salomón (Jimi), who stumble upon a man tainted by demonic forces, referred to as the rotten, on the brink of giving birth to pure evil, hence the name. Faced with a difficult choice, the brothers and local farmer Ruiz (Luis Ziembrowski) opt to remove the man from their midst, only to inadvertently aid in the birth of the impending inferno. From our perspective, we’re thrown into the middle of it without much explanation early on. The rotten has a fascinating premise that isn’t all that common in other possessed-oriented horror flicks. While the wretched, possessed soul appears as a swollen, oozing horror, the natural human inclination to confront this grotesque abomination with a weapon is a grave mistake.

❝There are plenty of true shock and awe moments.

Getting killed is precisely what the demon desires, as it unleashes further malevolence after “death.” Predictably, a series of ill-advised choices leads to disastrous consequences, and Pedro and Jimi are left with the daunting task of containing the unleashed demon’s rampage as it wreaks havoc in their community. What’s great about ‘When Evil Lurks’ is its trust in the audience, specifically in its first half. A near-hour goes by before any true exposition explains what’s going on. It allows us to follow these characters along in this literal hell without worrying about getting lost along the way. The longer you stay with it, the more apparent its plot becomes.

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As advertised, there are plenty of true shock and awe moments. The first being a pregnant woman and an axe, and shortly after, a dog and child. The “evil” acts in such a way that it influences—pretty much controls—humans and animals to exhibit shockingly unpredictable and violent behavior. Though the midpoint exposition might’ve overexplained the general plot—reminiscent of a Marvel film (“Oh, we need to do this so this will happen?”—it’s understandable why it happens. Consequently, the film probably would’ve benefitted more from a bit more ambiguity and chaos in the second half, as unhinged as most of the film already is. Why dial it to just ten when you can turn it up to 11?

❝It’s nice to see a film with a much smaller budget having such a better reaction than the bigger budget counterpart.

From a technical standpoint, the film is rock solid. There are plenty of great shots and cinematic moments that pair nicely with the score and performances. While no one’s a true stand-out, everyone does a great job at their role and doesn’t try to overdo it or hold the spotlight too long. Lastly, you can’t help but compare the film to ‘The Exorcist: Believer‘. While it’s never beneficial to rag on a film for the sake of comparison, it’s nice to see a film with a much smaller budget having such a better reaction than the bigger budget counterpart.

What’s truly remarkable about the film is that, despite its unsettling visuals, graphic violence, and jarring imagery, it resonates with viewers emotionally. The film plunges with profound themes, examining how a man who has consistently made poor life choices may inevitably face the repercussions of those decisions. The film isn’t perfect, and as graphic as it is, it probably could’ve used just a splash more to elevate it even higher. Regardless, any horror fanatic will eat ‘When Evil Lurks’ up, making it one of the better horror movies of the year and a reminder for us to pay attention to what filmmaker Demián Rugna does next.

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