Everyone who’s seen David Gordon Green’s godawful Exorcist reboot should have seen When Evil Lurks instead. It’s on AMC, Shudder, and Apple TV, I believe, and it’s the best horror movie I’ve seen since Hereditary. It’s also doing what David Gordon Green attempted in his Exorcist and Halloween reboots, but with a truly shocking and subversive script instead of Green’s Pollyanna “it takes a village” angle.
Anyway, When Evil Lurks. Y’all should really get on it. And since I’d rather not say too much until anyone’s seen it, I’ll just post the poster, which is how I’ve been getting my friends’ attention:
Oh, and some of you might know Demian Rugna’s last movie, Aterrados, which translates to “Terrified” in English. It’s a fantastically grim Poltergeist iteration, but with an innovative tweak on the ghost concept. Rugna’s made it about five years ago and I heartily recommend it. Amazingly creepy. We used to talk about it on the podcast.
Anyway, When Evil Lurks is Rugna’s latest and I think it’s ambitious, unforgettable, and even profound, but Aterrados is still a wonderful thrill ride, as well. Thanks, Argentina!
I felt like there was a hand pressing down on my chest during Demián Rugna’s When Evil Lurks , a horror film so vicious and uncompromising I wasn’t always sure I could finish it. I’ve seen it three times now, not because I’ve become desensitized to its lawlessness, but because it’s so well-constructed that I’m drawn back to it despite the anxiety it inspires. There’s comfort in the thrall of an artist who’s in complete control of his medium. When Evil Lurks is Rugna’s fifth film, and I don’t think it’s too soon to declare him an important filmmaker and a true innovator. I’ve never seen what he does in the horror genre before; I’d call it experimentation, except that it works on a more than theoretical level. Between this and his previous picture, Terrified (2017), he has deconstructed the familiar, reconstituting it into a beast that feels new and dangerous…There’s nothing new about locating terror in intensely personal private spaces, but there’s a revolution in having the idea to mate Martyrs with Poltergeist.
I’m saving the rest until after I’ve seen it. I guess I’ll bump the movie to the top of my queue now.
This sounds really cool from what I’m reading about the movie. You mention it’s on AMC, do they have their own paid streaming service or should I be able to find this on their cable channel? I googled and found a link to something called AMC Plus, but that seemed to direct me back to Shudder.
AMC Plus is the streaming service, it has some (but not all) Shudder content and is staggeringly inept in every way.
Also that second red poster is the one Shudder uses and I probably never would have given it a second glance between that and the title being (while appropriate) pretty generic horror movie fare. I don’t have time to get into detailed thoughts yet but what a movie. Go watch it.
And it’s the women who know better, who either trust the system and patiently wait for it to take effect (Maria Elena, not realizing the authorities had set her up to fail); it’s the women who take things into their own hands because they know the men can’t handle it (Ruiz’ wife, who isn’t bringing him the axe to hand it to him!); it’s the women who are left to clean up whenever the men fail (Mitra, whose flight from the city after her husband fails to return from a cleaning is presumably the inciting event for the movie, if we’re to believe her story).
(Of course, it’s not quite that neat, since Sabrina is pretty squarely on Team Azrael throughout. But Leo charging off after the dog with his shotgun – does everyone in Argentina have a shotgun? – is a classic dude move.)
But rather than thinking of this as a movie about a theological/ecological catastrophe – demonic possession as toxic waste, complete with a bunch of NIMBY locals – doesn’t When Evil Lurks reveal itself as a series of deterministic dominoes falling into place, a la Hereditary? Remember that class lecture in Hereditary: “Is it more tragic or less tragic if [Heracles] had a choice?” “I think it’s more tragic if they’re all just pawns in this horrible hopeless machine…”
Isn’t that what’s happening here? How else would Jair have seen in advance the birth of Azrael – isn’t the implication of the name reverberating with Jair in the car that Azrael is the name of this evil? – and drawn it in his picture years ago? We know Azrael either knows things before they happen or at least that he’s going to make them happen, hence Vicky’s playful “prediction” that “Daddy is going to kill you when he drives into you with his truck and - bam!”
So is this a movie about how men fail to follow the rules? Or, in fact, is it a movie about how Evil knows men will fail to follow the rules and uses this as a vector? Is that even a distinction with a difference? And if When Evil Lurks, like Hereditary, is a story in which the main characters have no agency, does that make it more or less interesting? I don’t know the answers, but I find it worth noting that the horror directors pondering these questions come from Jewish (Ari Aster) and Catholic (Demian Rugna) roots, respectively.
Nice catch! I was an Apple II guy, although I totally want one on those hats. I can imagine Jaime trying to load up Bard’s Tale on the school’s C-64.
I think a criticism I would have of this, is that the 2 main protagonists just keep making dumb decisions that any sane person would not make, and that gets a bit frustrating. That is a trope of almost all horror movies, but there were a couple moments in this where things got stretched a bit.
Particularly the axe part in the school. Like, come on man, you literally saw moments earlier the same exact child lie to you about the location of the rotten, and then you listen to her now? Like really wtf? That kind of took me out of it a bit.
In Hereditary, the main character is being tricked the entire time by who was thought to be a reliable family friend. That was believable that she was doing things that a sane person would say no to, because she thought she was doing the right thing.
I don’t know, I felt like most of what the brothers do was extremely relatable. It’s not that they’re good decisions (or that the brothers seem like very smart men), but they’re impulsive, emotionally driven decisions in stressful circumstances. And the one you highlight is like “this isn’t working, I need another approach, I will risk this” (and he is being needled by the demon the whole time, which really doesn’t help).
There are no trusted family friends in Hereditary. Ann Dowd is a stranger (she thinks, anyway) that she met at a group therapy meeting and interacts with about 3 times during the movie. She is absolutely being manipulated and her weaknesses targeted though.
At least throughout the movie they are in GTFO mode, not doing the usual, frustrating, horror-movie thing of staying put and trying to cope. The mistakes they make come from trying to rescue their loved ones only to bring the evil along with them.
I agree about the third act/climax with the axe being a bit undercooked. Or maybe that’s just the nature of this kind of ending. I love how the movie introduces that cleaning contraption sextant thing and then Mitra gets it all set up, but, well…
Pedro is broken throughout the film and paying for his failures which I think adds to your point, Tom, about men and women in this world. Unlike the other women you mentioned, Sabrina was ruined by her man long before the film started.
But I love your comparison to Hereditary. Thanks again for the recommendation! 'Twas a good way to celebrate Halloween. I even ate a Butterfinger while I watched.