When Evil Lurks Puts a Fresh New Spin on the Possession Subgenre

Courtesy of Shudder and IFC Films. A Shudder and IFC Films Release.

I’ve been dying to see When Evil Lurks ever since I first heard about it, so this just might be my most anticipated review of the entire year. See, When Evil Lurks was made by Demián Rugna, and in my opinion, this guy is one of the most exciting horror filmmakers of this generation. He burst onto the international genre scene a few years ago with Terrified, one of my absolute favorite Shudder originals of all time, and he also directed the best segment in the recent anthology film Satanic Hispanics. So naturally, I couldn’t wait to see what he would do next. I was sure it would be another winner, and after finally getting the chance to watch When Evil Lurks, I’m happy to report that I was totally right.

When Evil Lurks was written and directed by Demián Rugna, and it stars Ezequiel Rodriguez, Demián Salomon, Luis Ziembrowski, Silvia Sabater, and Marcelo Michinau. It’s about Pedro and Jimmy, two brothers who live together in a remote village, and one day, they discover a terrifying secret: one of their neighbors is possessed by an evil spirit. They also learn that the man’s family was waiting for a professional exorcist known as a “cleaner” to release him from his demonic bondage, but he died before he could reach their house.

It’s a pretty dire situation, so along with another neighbor, Jimmy and Pedro attempt to fix the problem themselves. However, as you can probably guess, it all goes horribly wrong. They botch the process, so instead of sending the demon back to hell, they set it loose. The thing goes on a bloody rampage through their village and one of the surrounding towns, and now it’s up to these two brothers to find a way to stop it.

Like I said, When Evil Lurks is another banger from Demián Rugna, and there are three things about it in particular that really stood out to me. First, we have the characters. All of the performances in this movie are excellent, but I have to give special mention to Ezequiel Rodriguez and Demián Salomon, the actors who play Pedro and Jimmy.

When the film begins, these brothers come across as hardened, grizzled men who don’t care much about anyone or anything, but as the story goes on, we learn that they’re both a lot deeper and more complex than we thought. Rodriguez and Salomon are asked to convey a surprisingly wide range of emotions, including fear, anger, and grief, and they absolutely nail every single one of them.

A bloodied man in a car with a shattered windshield
Courtesy of Shudder and IFC Films. A Shudder and IFC Films release.

What’s more, we also find out that Pedro has an ex-wife and two kids, and when they come into the picture, When Evil Lurks really begins to shine. This family adds even more unexpected depth to the character of Pedro, and Ezequiel Rodriguez conveys the man’s love and care for them perfectly. You can tell that he would do anything for them, especially for his children, so you can’t help but love him.

In fact, just about everybody in this film is pretty likable. As I said, the performances are all fantastic, so you’ll believe that these are real people going through a real crisis. You’ll come to care about them fairly quickly, and you’ll have no trouble at all immersing yourself in their story.

In addition to those great characters, When Evil Lurks also has some outstanding horror. Unlike a lot of genre movies these days, this one relies more on creepiness, shocking violence, and gore than on jump scares, and it excels in all three areas. For instance, writer/director Demián Rugna crafts several amazingly eerie set pieces, and there are also a bunch of smaller moments when he creeps you out with just a single line or two.

In particular, I have to highlight a line that one of the kids says. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I’m going to be a bit vague here, but suffice it to say, it’s a chilling prediction of someone’s untimely death. It’s delivered with a typically childlike nonchalance that makes it even eerier, so when you hear it, it might even send a few shivers down your spine.

As for the gore and violence, When Evil Lurks doesn’t nearly reach Evil Dead levels, but it has its moments. For example, Pedro and Jimmy learn that the cleaner died because they find his severed hand, and there’s a disgusting scene towards the end where one of the characters throws up blood and hair.

But hands down, the best gore in this movie involves the initial possession victim. See, this guy doesn’t look like your typical Regan MacNeil wannabee. Rather, he’s sickeningly bloated, and he has some of the worst-looking (in a good way!) sores I’ve ever seen. He’s so far gone he almost doesn’t even look human anymore, so his appearance alone makes this film pretty unique in the possession subgenre.

A hand smearing blood on a man's forehead
Courtesy of Shudder and IFC Films. A Shudder and IFC Films Release.

Last but not least, we have to talk about the story. Much like he did with Terrified, Demián Rugna crafts a brand-new mythology for this movie, and that unique lore makes for a really interesting story. For starters, there are rules people have to follow to stay safe when evil is afoot, and they’re not exactly what you might expect. To take just a couple of examples, you’re not supposed to use artificial lights, and you shouldn’t kill possession victims with firearms.

What’s more, the demon in When Evil Lurks isn’t content to stay put within a single individual. Once Pedro and Jimmy botch their initial attempt to get rid of the entity, it’s able to jump to multiple different hosts, and that allows it to wreak maximum havoc. It also enables the evil spirit to actively go after the main characters, so they’re not safe no matter where they go.

As you can probably guess, that unique mythology makes for a fascinating story that’s unlike just about anything else in the possession subgenre, and that’s one of the best things about this movie. It feels fresh and new, so even though there have been countless possession films in the past 50 years, you never feel like you know how this one is going to play out.

All that being said, I have to acknowledge that When Evil Lurks isn’t quite perfect. As much as I enjoyed the horror in this movie, there is one thing I think it could’ve done better. See, the film has a lot of great moments, but for the majority of its runtime, it never really sustains a sense of terror for very long. Instead, the frights come and go, and just about every time you think it’s finally going to go all-out on the scares and action, it pulls back and leaves you wanting more. To be fair, it eventually does become all horror all the time at the end, but in my opinion, it should’ve done that a bit earlier.

However, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not the worst thing in the world, so on the whole, I still had a great time with When Evil Lurks. It has outstanding characters, excellent horror, and a refreshingly original story, so even though it’s not perfect, I still think this is a must-see for any hardcore horror fan.

When Evil Lurks was released in limited theaters on October 6 and will be available to stream via Shudder on October 27.

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Written by JP Nunez

JP Nunez is a lifelong horror fan. From a very early age, he learned to love monsters, ghosts, and all things spooky, and it's still his favorite genre today.

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