Heartland: When Evil Lurks
A creepy-as-all-get-out Argentinian demonic horror/thriller that offers plenty of fresh meat to a chewed-over genre.
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When you’ve watched as many horror flicks as I have, it can become like eating a thousand hamburgers — some are really good, some are quite bad, but after awhile they all kinda start to taste similar.
“When Evil Lurks” is a truly disturbing demonic possession movie from Argentina that is legitimately scary as all get out. I like to brag about it being very difficult for a film to legitimately frighten me anymore, but this horror/thriller from writer/director Demián Rugna sure did the trick.
Even better, it does not rely on conventional jump scares or dumpsters full of gore. It carefully stokes a mood of unease, caressing our primordial fears until we’re primed to shiver out of our skins.
For us tired horror fans, this film offers plenty of fresh meat to a chewed-over genre.
Set in a remote rural area far away from any cities, it begins with two brothers, Pedro and Jaime (Ezequiel Rodriguez and Demián Salomon, respectively), who work a small farm. Jaime is younger and more even-keeled, while Pedro has a reputation as a hot-head and has had clashes with the law before.
Hearing gunshots one night, they explore the next morning and come across a gruesome find. The dead man had a strange case with him filled with golden parts to an unknown contraption. At first they think their neighbor, Ruiz (Luis Ziembrowski), might have something to do with it as he’s known for being overly protective of his land, and has a pregnant wife.
Instead they discover that another neighbor, a poor woman with two sons, is at the center of the trouble. Her older son, an obese invalid, has become a “rotten” — a zombie-like creature possessed by a demon. The dead man with the odd device was a “cleaner” come to safely dispose of him. So Ruiz and the brothers decide to take care of the problem themselves.
Suffice to say, things do not go as planned and soon the demonic possession is spreading. Children, dogs, old people — everyone is susceptible.
It turns out these outbreaks are not unheard of but have largely been confined to big cities in the past. No one wants to believe it could be happening in their tucked-away town. The similarity to our recent pandemic further stokes our sense of paranoia.
Pedro decides to just grab his kids and leave the area forever, but they live with his estranged wife, Sabrina (Desirée Salgueiro), and her new husband (Federico Liss). Apparently there’s bad history between them and Pedro is violating a restraining order just by showing up on their doorstep, and the police are called. Things go from bad to worse.
Pedro’s younger boy, Santino, is scared but loves his papa and goes along with things. His teen son, Jair, has severe autism and barely responds to outside stimuli. Scarily, his baseline behavior is eerily similar to how people act when they become possessed, so people jump to conclusions about how much of a threat Jair poses.
Jaime and Pedro pick up their elderly mother during their flight. She recalls more of the lore about the rotten, including the seven rules of what to do and not do. Number one is not to use firearms to kill them, because this instantly releases the demon spirit into the one who took the previous host’s life.
Unfortunately, not many other people remember/believe the folklore.
Eventually they find their way to the doorstep of Mirta (Silvina Sabater), a former teacher of Jaime’s with whom he has maintained a loose, odd relationship over the years. She seems to know more about how to handle the rotten ones than anyone else, and it starts to look like our heroes may prevail.
Rugna has a masterful sense of how much information to tease out and when to assault us with threats. There are several sequences that turn the knob up to sheer hysteria. I won’t spoil the delicious terror, of course, other than to say look out for the part where a solitary figure staggers down the road carrying… something.
“When Evil Lurks” is a first-rate scare flick, one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. It’s the sort of thing that leaves you unconsciously rubbing at your own skin, hoping nothing has seeped inside.