When brothers in a rural Argentinian town discover a possessed man, they decide to move him away with the help of some townspeople in the hopes of saving the town from being “infected”. What follows is the consequence of their arrogance, which may lead to the birth of true evil. When Evil Lurks is a Spanish-language Argentinian film directed by Demian Rugna (Terrified), starring Ezequiel Rodríguez and Demián Salomón in lead roles. I’d say that as a horror enthusiast, I’ve seen quite a few questionable films in my time, but this one has to take the cake for the most anxiety-inducing one (yes, I watched Beau Is Afraid). I could say this film is deliciously evil, at least for those who like to dabble in the world of horror, but it would be a disservice to how grotesque the whole thing is. When Evil Lurks is unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s an apocalyptic possession story with the most original lore and a unique exploration of possession.
Incredibly, even with a low budget and being a Shudder film, When Evil Lurks defies all indie expectations and provides mainstream action and gore. This is not for the weak of heart or stomach; believe me, do not accidentally bring food with you to watch this film. There’s an unimaginable visceral tension throughout, from the first second right until the end. You could argue that nauseating gore has been around long enough, so this shouldn’t be as scary as I make it out to be, but it’s the atmospheric tension that really shocked me as a viewer. This movie has made me react audibly like never before. At best, I’ve gasped at something disgusting, but what I can only describe as jump scares in this film are truly paralyzing by the sheer surprise of it all. But what is important is that When Evil Lurks doesn’t rely on the actual gore as much as it does on the sheer chaos that it brings to the people witnessing it. From start to finish, we are on a dreadful journey with Pedro and Jimi, who have no idea what they’re doing, and similarly, we have no idea what’s coming for us. Everyone is expendable, and nothing is predictable. The protagonist isn’t a gun-wielding hero who can simply defeat all evil with a shot in the head. Pedro is a terrible decision-maker, and I was definitely exasperated by his behavior a lot of the time. At the same time, though, his cluelessness is endearing rather than something you want to smack him for. The relationship between the two brothers is carried through the film smoothly, and we are left rooting for them no matter what they’re faced with.
Do not be mistaken; this is a possession film, but it’s not a religious one. The carnage is combined with stunning cinematography (really, the budget does not show) and a captivating use of depth of field that will not allow you to look away. There’s a scene that involves a goat, which is breathtaking to look at. Even the beginning of the film looks straight out of a big-budget Hollywood production like The Last of Us. Along with a killer background score that is haunting on its own, the film also makes excellent use of silences and the sounds of nature, which add to the eerieness of it all. You would be mistaken to think that the camera will turn away from something too disturbing; in fact, the camera will linger and show you all the dirty details and more. Yes, this film goes from dark to pure evil in seconds and captures true tension in the process. There’s a scene where Pedro argues with his wife, and the camera keeps shifting, which had me eating my own fist.
What is fascinating is how this film marries the gore with the morbid and presents a highly depressing story. This film is bleak without a doubt, but you can’t really call it a slow burn because at every stop the protagonist makes, there is worse evil awaiting him. The pacing, in fact, is quick, and when you are just ready for a breather, something else is going to bring your heart to your mouth. This feels more like a documentary than a film because of how realistic the practical effects (down to bodily fluids) are. There’s no holding back, as I’ve mentioned more than enough times by now, which adds to the realistic nature of the grotesque.
The film captures rural Argentina in a very fine manner, making it feel like we’re truly a part of this community that is trying really hard not to be infected by this plague-like evil. That’s the best way one could describe it—an infection rather than a possession. Is the ending worth the ride, though? I’d say it is, especially because of the nature of the film. There’s nothing rewarding about When Evil Lurks, and as much as I loved the experience of watching this film, I wouldn’t say I actually enjoyed it. Still, if you’ve got any interest in the genre and are willing to be disturbed, then I urge you to watch this film. It’s uniquely terrifying and will stay with you for long hours after you’re done watching it. I had the misfortune of watching this film alone because nobody around me wants to see horror movies, and I’m glad I didn’t make enemies by showing them this, but this would be a great group viewing where no one would be distracted or bored. Additionally, the group reactions would be fun to witness.
So, is this the scariest movie of 2023? I’d say yes for now. More than the action and the possession, it is the concept that is truly horrifyingly bleak. There’s no way you’re going to come out of this movie happy, and that’s why it’s so terrifying. When Evil Lurks is not perfect, and there are some things that don’t quite make sense about it, specifically pertaining to the lore, but it doesn’t really keep it from being a true masterpiece to watch. There’s a lot of gore, profanity, and violence in this film (bodily fluids included), so be warned. I give When Evil Lurks a personal score of 4 out of 5 stars.