When Evil Lurks (2023)

Director: Demián Rugna

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Starring: Ezequiel Rodriguez, Demián Salomon, Silvia Sabater, Virginia Garófalo, Emilio Vodanovich, Luis Ziembrowski, Marcelo Michinaux

After delivering 2017's Terrified, writer/director Demián Rugna returns with another unsettling piece of Argentinian horror. This feature opens with a single take, as brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) and Jimmy (Demián Salomón) hear from their house gunshots coming from the forest. Deducing that it is not a result of hunting, the siblings plan to leave at dawn to investigate the cause, although they are unprepared for what terrors are to come.

The brothers' findings lead them to a man possessed with a demon, whose body is rotting away into a misshapen mass. Worrying about their land becoming worthless due to this infection, the brothers ask the police to find a specialist to prevent things worsening, but are met with disbelief. Not deterred by the uselessness of those in power, the brothers decide to get rid of the possessed man themselves, although their actions only serve to spread the chaos.

As the characters hurtle towards the world's end, their journey takes distressing routes which leaves unforgettable sights for viewers to experience. The gruesomeness is sold through a combination of practical effects and sound design, while unsettling sequences come alive courtesy of dread-inducing atmosphere. Aiding this is the uncomfortable knowledge that the demonic force can appear anywhere and possess anyone, preying on human fears and vulnerabilities with an unflinching brutality that showcases the film's mean streak, and evilly confirms that nobody is safe. Mixed in is a compelling lore which introduces more rules as the runtime continues and, while it may not all come together effectively, the grim nature is unforgettable.

Key to this work is the strong brotherly relationship effectively depicted by the central pairing. The horrific circumstances leave Pedro falling apart, as his desperation to sort out this nightmare may be his undoing, leaving Jimmy to be strong for his brother and try keeping him on the straight path amidst these bleak horrors. A question lingers regarding if humanity can overcome the dark parts of life, or whether all that remains is a hopeless existence. It all makes up this grim banger that will leave a haunting impression.

When Evil Lurks previously played at Fantastic Fest. It had a cinema release and is available on Shudder from October 27th.