There are several moments throughout Demián Rugna’s horror film When Evil Lurks where you feel the violence is coming even before it does. In one particular scene, the way it keeps cutting back to something seemingly inane outside of most of the characters' view as all of them shout in a panic is downright cruel. With every cut, the film is practically shouting what is about to happen. Rather than rob the moment of its bite, it makes it tear through the scene that much more effectively and sends everything flying that it had been setting up. While such elements take a bit to really sink their teeth into you, with a belabored setup and scattered diversions throughout dulling its impact, there is no letting go once it has you in its grasp.

This is a delightfully brutal horror film where stress is the name of the game as it takes a classic possession story and twists it into more decidedly macabre territory. It demands its pound of flesh and comes away with more than its bloody share. Where other films can pull their punches or play it a little bit safe when it comes to actual stakes, there is no mistaking that doom is always right around the corner in every frame of When Evil Lurks. At moments, it even feels like it captures the scrappiness of Sam Raimi more than the recent Evil Dead Rise managed to do. It isn’t quite as tight of a narrative as it could be, but it still goes off the rails when it needs to. Whether you can stomach what it's serving up is another thing entirely.

What Is 'When Evil Lurks' About?

A still from When Evil Lurks. Image via IFC

This all begins rather simply with brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) and Jimmy (Demián Salomón) hearing gunshots ring out one night on a nearby farm in rural Argentina. Seeming to already know something is seriously wrong, they decide to wait until the morning to check out what exactly it is. They then find the aftermath of a gruesome killing where all that is left is a severed hand and the bottom half of a person. Further investigations reveal that there is a possessed man, who they call a “rotten” as it seems this person is decaying before their eyes, just lounging about in a nearby house. When they decide to try to drive him as far away from them as possible without understanding if this will even work, a painfully apt encapsulation of how people will push things out of their minds as a way of dealing with existential threats, this sets off a series of even more sinister events that will begin wreaking havoc on the entire area. Their attempt to stop it now threatens to tear apart everything they have ever known.

The film is quite rough around the edges, with a couple of visual effects here and there proving to be a bit distracting, though it makes up for any flaws with a fearsome commitment to chaos. When everything begins kicking off, there is nothing that is off limits and no one who is safe. This is a film that is not for the squeamish as characters are dispatched with an often unrelenting brutality. Though there is some narrative wheel spinning it goes through before really getting into this, it demolishes anything and everything in its path once the brothers hit the road. Details about past family discord are doled out through all of this, but that takes on an almost comical tone when the characters we get introduced to are obliterated shortly thereafter. It is jarring as all hell, but in a manner that really feels right for where this is all going. Even if the brothers weren’t completely out of their depth, which they consistently are throughout the entire film, it is unlikely they'd be able to stop the onslaught they’ve unleashed.

'When Evil Lurks' Lays Waste to Everything

Ezequiel Rodríguez in When Evil Lurks. Image via IFC

When the film does dangle the possibility of them finding a way to fight back, it can start to stumble a bit as it makes the horror that surrounds them a little too well-defined. However, this is all soon water in the bridge when it is clear that these are basically only guesses at best by others who are similarly uncertain. It also provides the most well-constructed joke when a character starts listing off all the things you shouldn’t do when dealing with such supernatural forces and then proceeds to do them. It doesn’t provide a respite from the frenetic energy coursing throughout the film, but rather gets an earned chuckle that actually compliments the crushing sense of dread consuming everything. There is an absurdity to the violence as, even as it is deeply grim, we see just how far it is that Rugna is willing to lay waste to the world he’s created. Just when you think there couldn't be more head trauma, he throws in some more.