Here Comes the DevilReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 01/13/14 19:13:58
(Worth A Look)
There are two sorts of horror movies in the world: The kind looking to make the audience jump with a thrill of excitement and the kind aiming to make them shake because they've been confronted with an idea that truly frightens them. Despite the jocular title, "Here Comes the Devil" fits the second category much more than the first. Maybe it loses something in translation, but not much of what happens does.After a prologue that hints at a very different sort of movie, we meet a family from the Tijuana suburbs having a day at the beach - father Felix (Francisco Barreiro), mother Sol (Laura Caro), daughter Sara (Michele Garcia), and son Adolfo (Alan Martinez). Sara and Adolfo go off to explore a nearby hill while the parents have some alone time, and it's only after the kids are late returning that they find out that the locals consider the mountain an evil, cursed place. Thankfully, their children are found on the road, but there's something off about them, perhaps more than can be explained by a night alone in a scary location.
Sex causes trouble in almost all horror stories, but few draw as straight a line as early as writer/director Adrián García Bogliano does here: The opening gives the audience some pre-slasher titillation and the main story doesn't just begin in earnest after Sara has her first period, but has Felix & Sol making love and recounting their first sexual experiences even as their children disappear into a suggestively shaped opening. And while early on, Bogliano is mainly using sex as an amplifier, making sure that the idea of frightening change is at the fore of the audience's mind, there is something innately sexual about many of the later incidents, twisted in ways to evoke a parent's worst fears.
Indeed, for all that Bogliano invokes demons and changelings while delivering the occasional nasty bit of gore or even a less bloody but still spooky moment or two, the most effective moments see him plunging Sol and Felix into parental nightmares. They're just young enough to remember how much sexual trial and error they had when young while seeing worst-case scenarios play out with their own children, and that likely makes them people that anybody can relate to even if the plot soon escalates past that. Yes, there might be something evil and unearthly involved in their situation, but that never takes them off the hook, and their sense of responsibility works both as something frightening in and of itself and an engine to push them toward both heroic and monstrous actions.
Laura Caro, especially, is great at portraying Sol in the middle of this nightmare. She is established early on as the sensible but potentially fun-killing authority figure in the family, but Caro and Bogliano aren't going for that simple stereotype; they're able to get Sol across as both the sexy young woman in way over her head and as the mother who gets problems solved, often in the same scene. Francisco Barreiro doesn't quite get as much time to shine as Felix, but no matter absurd or terrifying the situation is, he's thoroughly believable. Michele Garcia and Alan Martinez are just as authentic in the opening scenes even if they're more required to be generally creepy rather than given specific things to do later on, and Barbara Perrin Reivemar turns in a brief but excellent performance as a babysitter.
I suspect that this is Bogliano's most serious-minded movie - I've only seen Cold Sweat out of his previous work, a movie that's much more in the "let's have fun" mold than this one - and there are times when he seems to be trying a little too hard with artsy compositions making sure the audience sees that he's trying to say something serious about sex (it still sometimes feels like he does get a kick out of the gore and nudity beyond what the story needs). Still, he knows how horror movies work quite well indeed, letting the audience imagine the worst before hitting it with a shocking image or finding ways to change something prosaic into something terrible. I don't know whether the hill and cave where the evil supposedly lurks was a place the filmmakers found or one they made, but it's brilliant, full of large stones that feel like bones, and it's just one impressive bit that works a lot better than might be expected.Those details add up to an uncommonly scary movie, often one of the ones that sticks its knives deeper into the audience than just a surface thrill. I do somewhat wonder if it might have been even better had Bogliano worked with someone whose tendencies lean less toward fun horror than his own seem to, but who knows if that sort of simple substitution would have worked? As it is, he's made something damn good, and definitely worth a look for those who like being shaken up a bit.
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