Adrián García Bogliano’s Here Comes the Devil is many things, but at its core it has the bones of a slowburn supernatural thriller.
At its core, being the key words there. That core is caked in inches, maybe even feet, of coagulated blood.
The film begins with soft-focus lesbian gyrations and severed fingers and only ramps up in explicitness from there, so the mix of gratuitous sex and violence combined with the plot’s more metered leanings may not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Not me, though. I love films like this, films that refuse to be boring, that borrow and steal at every turn, but still end up feeling like a cohesive, original work.
And steal Here Comes the Devil does. There’s a Rosemary’s Baby dream sequence, Paranormal Activity shaking house scare tactics, a Park Chan-wook-esque justifiable (?) revenge sequence, a “just one more thing” sequence with a Columbo-ish detective, milky-eyed possession, it even lifts the “ghostly breast manipulation” gag from The Entity. But all of these detours into greatest-hits territory mesh together on Bogliano’s canvas.
In broad strokes, the film is about parents dealing with the return of their two pubescent children (a boy and a girl) after the kids go missing on a cursed hilltop for a day. When summarized like that, the film sounds like something we’ve seen a million times, but Bogliano adds enough detours, complications and reversals to the central mystery that the film goes at least a few places we haven’t seen before, some of them quite disturbing.
We get many traditionally, or at least stereotypically, American story beats transposed to a Mexican setting (Catholicism looming large in the opening sequence, with the mention of a priest, confessional, but its influence becoming less surface-level as the film progresses) by an Argentine writer/director, and the results are uniquely enjoyable. Enjoyable even if it does feel a bit like an exploitation gumbo, especially in the first half, where much of the pastiche is relegated.
Folks expecting their horror films to look a certain way (i.e. MTV slick and cut-laden) might be initially turned off by the film’s aesthetic. There are in-camera zooms, an abundance of split-focus shots and other techniques we’re not used to seeing in our horror flicks (in this decade anyway), but they give the film an almost subliminal throwback feel without the filmmaker having to resort to the hackneyed overlay of artificial weathering.
Stars Laura Caro and Francisco Barreiro do fine work, feeling naturalistic, even when Barreiro’s character has to be purposefully pig-headed (a recurring gag in the film has the couple’s room shaking, the lights flashing, with Felix trying to justify the cause as “people throwing rocks at the house”) and the kids end up sufficiently dead-eyed and creepy.
The film’s available to rent now On-Demand and is doing a limited theatrical run from Magnet Releasing. In what’s beginning to feel like a real dry-spell (at least for the last couple months, where I’ve seen a bunch of films, but didn’t like any of them enough to write them up), you could spend your money on far worse films than Here Comes the Devil.