Review: ‘When Evil Lurks’

Director Demián Rugna‘s Demonic Possession Film Provides Plenty of Unsettling Scares

“God is dead, and the times of churches ended quickly.”

If that doesn’t set the tone for director Demián Rugna’s latest movie When Evil Lurks, I don’t know what else can! The Argentinian horror film surrounding demonic possession pretty much grabs you by the throat from the opening scene and doesn’t let you go for its entire 139-minute runtime, and it just gets creepier and creepier every moment!

Living in the countryside (to escape the craziness of the city), brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodriguez) and Jimi (Demián Salomon) are disturbed one night by the sound of gunfire outside of their local farm area. Right off the bat in When Evil Lurks, the film understands horror tropes. Instead of rushing out to the sound of gunfire in the middle of the night, the brothers use common sense and delay their investigation until the next morning when they can have some daylight to aid them. When they have some sunlight (and some guns) to help them the next morning, they find something spine-chilling and disturbing. And remember, we’re not even 5 minutes into When Evil Lurks.

They come across the dismembered body that they assume is the result of some poor guy/gal facing off against a puma, only to find out that it’s much, much worse. Some rather obscure equipment and writings are found near the poor person’s body that leads the brothers to one of their nearby neighbors who reveal that the dead person was there to help them with their possessed family member. Yep, this is a movie about grotesque demonic possession, as we get to see the possessed person soon enough. Describing the possessed person as a “Rotten,” we quickly learn When Evil Lurks’ rules about possession. First off, you can not kill the person possessed as the demon will quickly just jump to a new body. The brothers work with another local farmer and decide to move the possessed person’s body out of town or else the whole town will become infected.

Not wanting to take any chances, Pedro wants to get his family out of town safely. When he goes to see his ex-wife, she’s not too receptive of him trying to take their kids out of town, especially when she has a restraining order against him. Little do they know, this demonic infection can quickly spread, even if you have a Rotten’s pus on your clothes. Slowly but surely, all hell starts to break loose and it’s a race against the clock Pedro, Jimmy, and their families try and escape the mayhem that ensues from the people who quickly become possessed.

At first in When Evil Lurks, the audience is unsure as to what the hell is going on. Luckily for us, we get treated to about 2 minutes of exposition as to why everything is happening the way it is. Also lucky for us, we get to learn the rules when Pedro and Jimmy’s mother are explaining to her grandson the rules, which allows the film to make a great deal more sense. Once we understand the same rules that our characters know, it racks up the tension as we see people break the rules and know exactly what’s gonna happen next.

Speaking of tension, one great thing about When Evil Lurks is that no one is safe in this film. Writer/Director Demián Rugna breaks the two rules that most movies abide by: you can’t kill kids, and you can’t kill dogs. Rugna says, “The hell with that” in very brutal and shocking moments, and I am all in favor of that! While When Evil Lurks has its fair share of gore (the boated, puss-filled Rotten’s body is not easy on the eyes, nor are axes or hammers to the face), the film is effectively scarier when it just alludes to the carnage that may or may not happen in the dark corners just out of sight. As the rules get fleshed out and we learn what the endgame of the film is, it heightens the creepy factor to the max! When Evil Lurks also effectively works because its ending is not your traditional horror movie ending. Don’t expect everything to work out how you would like it to as sometimes the world is not full of rainbows and happy endings, after all, there is no God in this movie.

With this being spooky season, watching When Evil Lurks is almost a must-watch. Those who hate subtitles, just grit your teeth and power through as you will enjoy a fun, tense, gory horror throwback that won’t have you peeking through your eyes, but you will want to sleep with the lights on and be wary of any unknown noises from the next room.

When Evil Lurks is currently available on Shudder.