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Bleak and terrifying with bold originality and fearless direction, “When Evil Lurks” is one of the most engaging horror films of the year.

When Evil Lurks

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I haven’t been so aware, tense, and disturbed in quite some time during a film as I was watching When Evil Lurks.

The fear that permeates each frame of this film is so visceral. It’s as though its fingers could reach out and mark you. Dark, punitive, horror at its finest, there are no miracles when the time of god is ending rapidly.

This stunning international co-production between the U.S. and Argentina was written and directed by powerhouse Demián Rugna, who brought us the nightmare that was Aterrados, better known in this part of the world as Terrified.

When Evil Lurks is a film that had incredible studio backing and a decent budget to play with, using the best of its materials to create some of the darkest tones and themes regarding faith and control; it also benefits from incredible performances, jaw-dropping practical effects, and a take on possession that could get any god-fearing person clawing for a rosary.

With no redemption offered, only a harrowing, grisly story of a man trying to shed a curse too powerful to fight and too powerful to outrun, we must face our demons in whatever form they present themselves, head-on.

Keep your eyes open, turn off your flashlights, and fear not what could come. There’s a whole new set of rules on this possession tale, and breaking them could cost you everything and more.

No time for introductions, only gunfire in the night.

Brothers Jaime (Demián Salomon) and Pedro (Ezequiel Rodriguez) listen to pistol shots ring out in the darkness. Poachers, perhaps, but they usually wouldn’t shoot this much, and there’s no rifle being fired. The two arm themselves and leave the dogs at home, heading out at first light to find what caused the disturbance. With some ideas of what it could have been, the men are not prepared to find a horribly mutilated set of human remains.

Postulating it could be a puma that got to the man, the brothers begin to scour the area, finding this man had a destination, and something clearly stopped him. They discover a map, along with strange tools, leading to a local woman’s home where she lives with her two sons.

When the two arrive at the house, they are greeted by a startled mother and younger son, who don’t wish the men to see her other son, Uriel.

Uriel is a sight to behold, bulbous and engorged, bubbling fluids and barely even able to move his head. Taking up the entirety of the bed, his decaying body is putrid, and the brothers are disgusted and shocked. This is no ordinary illness that has taken root in Uriel; he is possessed and appears close to his end.

With this evil now rearing its ugly head, we discover that the remains in the woods were that of a cleaner who was summoned to kill Uriel at his mother’s behest before the demon inside him can be birthed or before the possession can spread to other victims.

The Yarzulo brothers try and get help from the authorities. Still, with no one to give creed to their claim despite having been informed months ago, they seek help closer to home and devise a plan to get rid of the rotten one if no cleaner and no lawman will come to solve the problem. Guns are not the answer and are, in fact, one of the biggest dangers when dealing with the possessed.

With execution off the table, the men decide to take him far from town and dispose of him, ignoring traditions on how to properly dispose of a possessed one.

Folklore is rich in this tale that follows a similar but augmented set of possession rules.

God and the churches have apparently long been abandoned in this region, so the usual set of Christian guidelines for exorcism no longer apply, and this entity with the ability to possess is nothing I’ve ever witnessed.

Akin to an intelligent plague, this demon is clever, flexible, and cruel. From animals to people, this energy can jump from being to being, spreading chaos through the dying countryside, cloaking itself in many masks. We see men ignoring all the signs given to them by higher and lower powers, desperately trying to defeat evil and finding themselves their own worst enemies at every turn, falling victim to impatience and paranoia.

Ignoring experts and even the possessed, the brothers take a trip through hell as it engulfs their town and inhales lives like smoke.

Abandonment also appears to be a factor in this region. The town’s population is scant, the farmers don’t seem to be overly wealthy, and the fact that a call about illness and possession went unanswered for a year seems to show this portion of the world has been left behind.

Bloody, unforgiving, and by the end unrelenting, WHEN EVIL LURKS is no story of hopeful horror, but in its calamity and bloodlust, it is a brilliant film expanding on a plot device we’ve seen used the same way far too many times.

This journey around the pitch-black countryside leaves room for horrific moments I won’t soon forget.

Practical effects make for horrifying possessed victims in all their deformed glory. And mutilated corpses? More than you could imagine.

With imagery that will haunt me and new superstitions to keep me awake at night, it’s easy to recommend you stream this savage genre entry on Shudder now and be sure, much like this curse, to pass on what a gripping tale of terror When Evil Lurks is.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 4.5

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