Speaking after the film’s U.S. premiere at Fantastic Fest, director Demián Rugna talked about being inspired by Argentina’s history of industrialization and the way it poisons the fields and the people living there, the toxins and waste dumped on rural areas causing sickness in the inhabitants. Although not a huge part of the film (which quickly evolves into demonic carnage) it helps set “When Evil Lurks” apart in its cultural specificity. The film’s portrayal of rural religious beliefs and the way the white-passing main characters all treat the only indigenous family living on the farms all hint at a more human evil. Like the standout “Star Wars Visions” short, “In the Stars,” Rugna’s “When Evil Lurks” uses genre, particularly a well-known and established subgenre, in order to shine a light on topical issues in South America. The script (also by Rugna) manages to smoothly marry the two.
Indeed, this is a different kind of possession movie, one that does away with the priests (there’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference to the entire Church collapsing and dying off) and tied-to-a-bed kids. Instead, the film feels like the messed up hate child of Lucio Fulci’s “City of the Living Dead,” Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s “Who Can Kill A Child?” and, if you can believe it, M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Happening.”
This is a demonic infestation that jumps around quickly from one person to the next, making them instantly violent, especially toward loved ones, which results in some delightfully disturbing moments. As he did with “Terrified,” Rugna shows himself to be adept at crafting gory, sick imagery that instantly gets stuck in your head and never lets go. Embracing the bleak, unforgiving tone of Lucio Fulci with Rugna’s own exquisite sense of mythology, this is a movie for sickos, made by King Sicko.