Thursday, December 19, 2013

HERE COMES THE DEVIL (2012) movie review

Here Comes the Devil (2012) d. Adrián García Bogliano (Mexico/US)

A young Mexican couple (Francisco Barreiro, Laura Caro) takes a weekend jaunt to Tijuana with their two adolescent children (Alan Martinez, Michele Garcia). In a scene that recalls Peter Weir’s fascinating and haunting Picnic at Hanging Rock, the bored youngsters venture up a rocky hill, disappearing into a dark cave. As dusk falls and their offspring fail to return, the panicked parents call the police, haunted by guilt as they spend a sleepless, blame-filled night in a seedy hotel nearby. The next morning, the cops arrive with the kids in tow, but something is off – they seem distant, traumatized. Over the week that follows, the family is slowly torn asunder by dark forces from both within and without.

A vicious bitch-slap to the multitude of no-budget, shaky-cam paranormal flicks littering the genre’s current landscape, this deeply unsettling masterpiece delivers frontal assault shocks and atmospheric creeps in equal measure. As with his previous Argentinean shockers Cold Sweat and Penumbra, writer/director Bogliano is not concerned with cheap scares or mindless splatter, but with evoking a specific brand of fear that lingers in the bones, lives under the skin, dwells in the hindbrain....

Despite trafficking in well-traveled themes (torturer/victim, mysterious cults, demonic possession), his films always contain the vital elements that set them apart from so many other pretenders to the horror throne – personality and texture – making them rich and rewarding, even more so on repeat viewings.

There’s an undercurrent of sex and sexuality surging throughout Devil, from a steamy opening scene of two adventurous teenage girls to Barreiro and Caro describing their “first times” to one another, their mutual passion growing with every breathy remembrance, to Garcia’s character having her first period and Martinez’s corresponding confusion. But the darker side of the flesh is also explored, one marred by abuse, rape (spectral or human?), and incest, and it is from here that the film gets its juice, if you’ll pardon the expression.

The parents, increasingly fearful that something unsavory occurred to their beloved ones while out of their sight, seek explanations and, more importantly, retribution. Their thirst for “justice” leads down some very questionable paths indeed, all the more horrifying as we – and they – come to realize that the victimizer is far more powerful and potent than any dime-store, trenchcoated child molester.

Barreiro, star of the acclaimed urban cannibal flick We Are What We Are (recently remade with great success by Stake Land’s Jim Mickle) brings an admirable everyman quality to his slowly unraveling padre, but it is Caro (making her feature film debut) who carries the picture with her frightened but ferocious turn as a mother dealing with horrors both earthly and otherwise.

All of the supporting cast are terrific as well, including Barbara Perrin Rivemar as a beleaguered babysitter, Giancarlo Ruiz as a dogged detective, David Arturo Cabezud as a strange hermit who could be friend or fiend, and Enrique Saint-Martin as a gas station attendant whose story connects to Barreiro and Caro’s in chillingly poetic fashion.

The supernatural scares are used sparingly and effectively, with one nasty moment of gratuitous bloodletting, but more often than not the terror lurks just outside the frame, encouraging viewers to lean forward to unravel the mystery alongside the characters. Bogliano doesn’t answer every question raised by the time the credits crawl, but that’s as this particular fan prefers it (eschewing the seemingly mandatory flutter-cut flashback sequence filling in all the blanks). Note: most of the loose ends are, in fact, addressed, though it might take some careful reflection and/or discussion to tease them out.

This kind of rich, intelligent, measured, and mature horror evokes memories of the best of 1970s genre flicks, where storytelling, fine acting, and carefully cultivated atmosphere were the most special of special effects. In spite of its somewhat loopy title (I keep thinking “Here comes Speed Racer,” or “Hey there, it’s Yogi Bear”), Here Comes the Devil digs its claws in and refuses to let go.

Available through Magnolia/Magnet on iTunes, VOD, and in select theaters Dec. 13.

--Aaron Christensen, HorrorHound Magazine


  1. I have to find this. Great review!!!

    1. Not sure when it hits DVD, but it's on iTunes and other VOD platforms right now!