A gnarly blend of apocalyptic body horror and an inexplicable element of something evil, Demian Rugna’s Argentinian horror is a fever dream of sorts. Counting on the creeping sense of dread that’s only elevated by the enigmatic nature of the fear’s source, When Evil Lurks epitomizes a state of existence dangerously devoid of hope. What works is just how merciless it is in not giving you the predictable respite that’s usually the reassuring blanket you wrap around yourself when you watch a horror movie. And where Rugna’s film falls short are the anticlimactic brakes it pulls every time you rave yourself up, expecting something even more severe. It’s quite a journey through a maze of naive actions and unforgiving consequences that two brothers, Pedro and Jimmy, are haplessly pushed to take. Let’s see how well their wayward efforts fare.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?
With a bunch of bullets piercing through the quietness of the night, Pedro and Jimmy are alerted to something sinister going down nearby. Do they dare venture out in the dark? They’re smarter than that. You and I, however, are only to be left baffled by their cynical indifference at the sight of a corpse cut in half. You can’t help but wonder if it must be a fairly regular thing for them to stumble onto something like that. But there’s no answer in sight, at least as of now. Yet you keep counting the deformed pieces of the puzzle that’s never meant to come together. The severed bottom half of the unfortunate soul that Pedro and Jimmy found in the woods belongs to a “cleaner.” And in a town with hushed whispers of the “possessed” and disjointed rules to abide by to evade the claw of evil, what needs “cleaning” is a house that holds Uriel, a man ballooned up with pus, sores, and the seed of evil. The only thing that you’d find familiar in this town is just how unbothered the authorities are about the infectious possession that’s afflicted Maria’s family. No amount of holy water has cured her son of the demonic boils and festering wounds. Shooting anyone who’s possessed is sure to allow the evil force a gateway to the minds of those nearby. As the plight of the few remaining townspeople gets more and more harrowing in front of your frightened eyes, you get a clearer picture of why there are so few people around.
What Happens To Ruiz And His Wife?
While Pedro and Jimmy’s way of revolting against the callous mistreatment of Maria and her possessed son is relatively docile, the landowner, Ruiz, is too impulsive to sit on his hands while a Rotten swells up nearby. Just how self-destructively reckless Ruiz can get is evident in his tensed-up finger on the trigger, which he very well knows he shouldn’t pull. And while he does get a handle on his impulse at that time, he’s the kind of man who, once he’s set his mind to something, will find a way to get it done. Albeit executed quite poorly, considering Uriel’s larvae-looking pus-oozing body finds a way to roll off the back of the truck and vanish, Pedro, Jimmy, and Ruiz’s toiling, gagging attempts at dropping the Rotten far enough from the town do take a lot of effort. But how could Ruiz be at peace knowing that a possessed vessel of evil was out there somewhere?
The supernatural threat that the town is at a constant tug of war with knows just how to puppeteer an individual based on their personal weaknesses. And it’s Ruiz’s ruinous impulses that it weaponized, as it possesses a goat that manipulates Ruiz into speaking to it. The agonizing bloodbath that follows might open your eyes to just how tight of a grip the evil force can have on its victim should the victim allow it access. If he were not under the ruthless influence of evil, I doubt that Ruiz would’ve pulled the trigger and shot the goat that was desperate enough to corrupt the man by touching its head to the barrel. And as soon as the shot was fired in his pregnant wife’s vicinity, there was no keeping her safe from being possessed. The hope that the baby in her womb represented was overpowered by the vicious rage that took over her mind. Striking her husband to death with an ax could have been considered an episode of acute psychosis if she hadn’t split her face open with the same ax right after. The evil is spreading. And with Maria gone, the only two people whom her other son could turn to are Pedro and Jimmy. In exchange for the shelter he seeks, though, he has a useful piece of wisdom to impart to the two brothers. Never turn the electric lights on.
Do Sabrina And Her Daughter Die?
By keeping the nature of the evil that’s taken the neighboring towns for its hunting ground as inscrutable as possible, When Evil Lurks raises the stakes to a level of nail-biting tension. But that’s not all it does. Granted, neither the runtime nor the themes allowed for the film to truly flesh out the characters as much as they could’ve been, but it doesn’t miss out on exploring the necessary aspects of them. Our protagonist, for instance, easily makes for a convenient target for evil. He’s far from a good man, as is evident by the ruckus at his ex-wife Sabrina’s house when he shows up to whisk her and their children away to safety. It’s not that Sabrina and her new husband, Leo, are non-believers. But Pedro’s the kind of threat that they’re more familiar with.
The negativity pouring out of every vile word exchanged between them only empowers the evil and makes space for it to spread the infection further. None of them, not even Pedro, could’ve imagined that their family dog would sniff his clothes, get possessed, and maul Sabrina and Leo’s little daughter to death. I guess that only goes to show just how vulnerable people make themselves to far more vicious threats as they fail to fight their personal demons. It’s unsurprising that the sinister energy would feed on negative emotions. While it’s hopelessly frustrating for Pedro to watch Leo give in to his grief and rage and dismiss the no-firearms rule by shooting the possessed dog, he also knows when a person is beyond help and when he should walk away. Pedro’s so numb to loss and hysteria that he doesn’t even bother shaking Sabrina out of her delusion when her dead daughter is mysteriously resurrected. And nothing could be more of a testament to just how intimate he is with the indomitable nature of evil than watching him drive away with his two children as a possessed Leo crashes into Sabrina with his car.
Why Did Pedro Fail To Stop The Birth Of Evil?
What protects and also betrays the evil that is waiting to be born in Pedro and Jimmy’s cursed town is the lore enveloping it. It’s never really transparent as to what its ulterior agenda is—if it even has one, that is. If there’s one thing we are certain of, it is that the entirety of the town, along with the neighboring city, is aware and terrified of the evil that’s gotten attached to it. Just how deep its roots run is what you hear in Pedro and Jimmy’s mother’s voice, who’s coexisted with it for so long without being affected by it personally that she’s started underestimating it to some extent. This is one of those instances where When Evil Lurks detached itself from the conventions of the real world and didn’t assign the meek, superstitious role to the kids’ grandma. It’s Pedro who’s bothered by his mom going on and on about the rules that’d keep evil at bay. While part of it can be chalked up to the fact that he’s actually seen and dealt with a handful of possessed ones, unlike his mother, what he’s mostly fearful of is his son Santino’s safety. To have his autistic son Jair spazzing out as they’re heading toward the city only adds to the crushing amount of stress that Pedro’s under.
What When Evil Lurks emphasizes time and again is that the evil force is everywhere. It’s in the very air that they breathe and in the most undisclosed thoughts that they have. It knows the machinations of its target’s mind well enough to know exactly what to weaponize to derail them from the path they’re supposed to follow. Pedro does give in quicker than you’d expect from a protagonist in a horror film. While Jair’s faint mutterings of the evil’s name go unnoticed and warn us of another impending strike of danger, Pedro works against his best judgment and picks up a call from someone he knows is not the real Sabrina. The lacerations made on his emotions might not end him right away, but it in no way helps that he’s remorselessly stabbed with his worst insecurities. It’s here that we truly get an endearing look at just how close the two brothers are. While the younger one is usually the one in need of saving, here he’s the more valiant of the two, picking up the shattered pieces and putting his older brother back together. It also comes in rather handy that Jimmy knows Mirta, a witch-like believer in the city. It’s not just cash and shelter they’re in need of, of course. But what they find in Mirta’s house, bereft of guns and electricity, is something they didn’t even know they were looking for.
From the very moment Mirta’s gloomy presence darkens the screen, you know there’s more to this woman than meets the eye. But she’s not someone to be scared of, even though it does get quite baffling the way she keeps on claiming that there’s evil in Jair. Judging by the way Jimmy’s conviction about whether he’s actually seen a “possessed” falters when questioned by Mirta, chances are the evil is using his confusion in its favor. Mirta is the kind of woman who has an answer for everything, however vague and cryptic it may be. Amidst the unforeseen chaos of a dead Sabrina following their trail and taking the child that she believes would be safer with her, Mirta’s the only voice of reason who realizes that the evil has read Pedro’s biggest fear to plot the most fitting method of tormenting him. There’s a reason why Mirta knows so much about evil’s destructive design. There’s a reason why the same machine that belonged to the dead “cleaner” from the opening sequence is something that Mirta not only has but knows how to operate. She herself is a cleaner who was once a woman of God until the grief of his death overtook the world. Without even having a face of its own, the havoc the evil entity is capable of wreaking is felt through every nasty scheme it contrives.
To torture Jimmy, it not only places a zombified Sabrina munching on little Santino’s brain on his path but also torments him with the dark reminder of the time he betrayed his brother with Sabrina. But the real wrath is to be faced by Pedro, haunted and terrified, unable to conjure up a beam of hope to fight the darkness he’s swallowed by. Sure, Mirta is able to guide him to the best of her abilities. But in a haunted classroom crawling with the entity’s adolescent puppets, it’s only natural for Pedro to lose his mind. It takes him some time to gather himself, with the help of Mirta’s timely observation that the evil force is using the children to drive them away from the school. And if it’s so hell-bent on protecting the school from Mirta and Pedro, chances are, this is where the unholy birth of its human form will take place. It’s not unusual for an evil entity to grab hold of children’s impressionable minds and corrupt them to their cores. And the manifestation of the mass possession in When Evil Lurks has cost their parents their lives. Bricks of bodies covered in lime hide the long-lost Rotten, whom the entity chose as its womb. Looking back at the gnarly deaths that we’ve seen so far, it’s not at all a shock that at the very crucial moment when Mirta is ready to disrupt the entity’s nefarious plan, Pedro falls for the possessed children’s manipulations and practically aids in the birth of evil. Sure, he bashes a nonchalant Uriel’s skull in with a part of Mirta’s apparatus, but with Mirta dead and him not knowing heads or tails of how to stop the evil birth, there was no way to stop the inevitable.
It’s only fitting that the tactile form of the evil entity looks like a child, sparing Pedro’s life because it’s not done wounding him. He has to live so he can be the terribly unfortunate father pulling out strands of hair and his mother’s necklace from Jair’s mouth. If you remember what Mirta’d said about the entity being lost in the maze of an autistic person’s mind, you probably also remember that she’d foretold the entity would take over Jair’s mind eventually. When Pedro and Jimmy were away, we saw Jair’s bizarre transformation from a boy who couldn’t stitch a few words together to someone asking his grandmother for food. What the ending sequence of When Evil Lurks makes abundantly clear is that the possessed people in this town would go to any lengths to butcher their loved ones—cannibalism included. The theory is only further strengthened by the fact that Uriel’s brother confesses to having been puppeteer by a voice in his head, killing the cleaner who was coming to kill his brother, and cannibalizing his mother afterward. The only reason the entity must’ve kept Pedro and Jimmy alive was to seek revenge on them. They’ve tried to stop its birth. There’s no way that something this sinister that didn’t spare little children and pregnant women would show them mercy. Chances are, Jimmy’s punishment was having to helplessly watch his loved ones waste away. And Pedro’s punishment is to go on living with the crushing pain of failing to save the people he loved with all his heart.