The best thing about When Evil Lurks, is that it is in dialogue with all the great horror films of the past. Its deliberate emphasis on family and the helplessness that comes with it when we see a loved one in trouble and aren’t able to do anything about it places it right beside films like The Exorcist, Hereditary and A Quiet Place. Some films have this quality of reverberation where it seems like the film is echoing the tropes the subgenre is known for, but in a fresh manner and not just because of our knowledge about other such films. In this film, we are introduced to characters, and suddenly we know what their purpose in the film is. This is why the characters in When Evil Lurks work so well, as they take off from the moment they get introduced in the story. Pedro, the frantic father, immediately contacts a ‘rotten’ and his descent into hell begins. Similarly, Mirta, the middle-aged woman who could have ended the evil’s cycle of birth, comes at a point where there is a need for that classic figure of the stoic exorcist, and she arrives with her great knowledge on the subject.
Mirta is a fascinating character. Living in a house with no electricity, she was always ready for this moment, when the town would face the wrath of the demonic possessions. Mirta seemed to be an expert on the issue, as she ran a scam many years ago, which led her to create the demon in a way. She and her husband ran a church, where they healed a few possessed people. They were hired actors for scamming the public, but one day, one of their actors became actually possessed—a curse by God, she thought—for destroying His faith. This was her first encounter with the ‘rotten’, who birthed its kind after possessing a suitable candidate. She had become a ‘cleaner’, a post-church exorcist who dealt with the possessed in a way to stop evil’s reproduction process. Over the years, she had accumulated a wealth of knowledge that helped her identify a possessed body and the principles on which the evil worked. The possessed shouldn’t be killed by a firearm, and to keep the evil at bay, one must avoid electricity and light sources. Kids attracted and protected it, and they were the most vulnerable of them all. Even Pedro knew a few rules, but he had no idea how complex its functioning was.
Jimi had an affair with Mirta and thought he could take Pedro, his two sons, and the kids’ grandmother to her place and the reason was twofold. They needed rest before embarking on a long journey out of town, and they had exhausted their money. Mirta could help them out financially. Well, she did help them not just monetarily but emotionally as well. If Pedro was capable enough, he would have listened to her instructions and trusted her instincts. She knew that Jair, Pedro’s eldest son, was possessed, and due to his autism, the evil had gotten lost in Jair’s mind, but it would soon solve the issue, and Jair would fall victim to it. She was out to hunt the ‘rotten’ after such a long time that she needed Pedro’s help, but he was too impatient and weak to resist acting impulsively. This is what cost Mirta her life. She was ready to kill the rotten, Maria Elena’s eldest son, Uriel, in the school, but she couldn’t. Pedro left her high and dry in front of the school kids, who were possessed and were waiting for the opportunity to kill her. Why they didn’t attack Pedro is perhaps because he was quite helpful for the evil force, as his fears helped it function. Mirta was completely fearless and was the only one who could fight it, so she was killed.
Would Mirta Have Her Prequel?
Mirta came in the second half of the narrative and immediately became an iconic character, or at least gave off the vibes of someone who could have her own spin-off prequel. Think about it: She was perhaps one of the first ones who dealt with the possessed and may have been the one responsible for its origin. She and her husband had been quite a team, and her survival only means that she was extremely competent at her job of being a cleaner. Men like Ruiz, Leo, and Pedro—all of them couldn’t control their impulse to kill the possessed in the wrong way, even after knowing that the evil would ultimately be strengthened by that act. The men in the movie didn’t have the same strength of character that Mirta possessed, which makes her a badass, and her journey, right from the moment she started a fake church to the moment she became a righteous ‘cleaner’, deserves its own portrayal. When Evil Lurks didn’t hint at a prequel, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make it soon.
Most of When Evil Lurks becomes puzzling when one thinks about how the evil force functioned. So, it had suddenly seized Uriel, and he had become the possessed one. While he was taken out of town by Ruiz, Pedro, and Jimi, somewhere on their journey, he vanished from the car and could be anywhere. In the end, it was clear that the ‘rotten’ had spread its disease to an entire school, killing all the teachers. Uriel was possessed and had ultimately become a ‘rotten’. His touch was infectious, and people could easily become the possessed ones, either by breaking the rules laid out by Mirta or by coming in contact with Uriel. Pedro’s clothes had the infection, which was transferred to Leo’s dog. Then Sabrina got infected, and she soon came to hunt Santino, Pedro’s younger son.
How Did Jair, Pedro’s Eldest, Get Infected?
The answer could be that Jair had heard his grandma name all of the evil’s names found in the Bible, which was a big no-no as far as dealing with the evil was concerned. He kept repeating one of the names himself, and when the possessed Sabrina showed up and came near Pedro’s car, in which Jair sat unable to move, he too could have been transmitted the possession like a disease.
The event that started it all was the gunshot heard at the beginning of When Evil Lurks. Pedro and Jimi had gone to the forest and found the dismembered body of the ‘cleaner’ Maria and her youngest son had contacted to get rid of Uriel. Who had killed him? This puzzle resolved itself when Maria’s youngest accepted the fact that he had come into Uriel’s contact, used the gun to kill the cleaner, ate his body and killed Maria. Jair was possessed, and when Uriel’s body birthed the evil in human form, Jair killed his grandma as the evil had finally got to his head. Similarly, Maria was also killed by her youngest. The newly born demon in the form of a young boy (possibly young Uriel), led the schoolkids to possess the entire town. He blessed Pedro with the sign on his forehead, a mark of being a helper almost, as Pedro was single-handedly responsible for taking the evil’s spirit along wherever he went. Had he not bludgeoned swollen Uriel to death and followed Mirta’s method of shooting directly at Uriel’s navel, the ‘rotten’ could have been stopped. It was the last hope, and now Pedro could only wait for Jair to swell up or call a cleaner to stop the evil’s spree of possession.