Nobody’s safe in this nasty Argentinean tale of demonic possession

Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo

When Evil Lurks
Coming Soon
3.5 out of 5

The thing about watching North American horror is that you know there are certain boundaries that won’t be crossed: children won’t be harmed (on camera), deaths may be gory but definitive, and the family unit will endure (whether alive or dead).

Other countries don’t have such self-imposed constraints.

Recently, Australian cinema —known for its vicious streak— delivered Beaten to Death, a 93-minutes resilience test in which a human body endures unspeakable punishment for… entertainment?

For something meatier with a side of social commentary, you could do a lot worse than When Evil Lurks, a mean-spirited Argentinian romp that lingers long after the closing credits.

Two siblings discover a mutilated body in the woods. A quick investigation reveals the dead guy was an exorcist on his way to a dilapidated shack. Inside, a mother cares for her grotesquely disfigured son, who has been possessed by a demon — “embichado” is the technical term — and now serves as a cocoon for the creature. The kicker: the thing is contagious. Also, it can’t be killed with bullets.

Following a half-hearted attempt to fix the situation, the brothers get away as far as possible from the embichado, but it’s too late. Wherever they go, disaster follows.

Director Demián Rugna (Terrified) does a superb job combining unpleasant makeup and prosthetics, an ever-present sense of dread and disturbing imagery.

When Evil Lurks will scare the bejesus of viewers but it also takes a swipe at the powers-that-be by portraying authority figures as inept tools who don’t care about impoverished people they should be helping. With this kind of apathy, It’s no surprise demons plague the poor. Perhaps there’s a lesson in there. ■