WHEN EVIL LURKS (Cuando acecha la maldad)

(director/writer: Demian Rugna; cinematographer: Mariano Suarez; editor: Lionel Cornistein; music: Pablo Fuu; cast: Ezequiel Rodriguez (Pedro Yazurlo), Demian Salomon (Jimi Yazurlo), Silvina Sabater (Mirta, exorcist “cleaner”), Virginia Garofalo (Pedro’s ex-wife Sabrina), Luis Ziembrowski (Ruiz), Emilio Vodanovich (disabled teen), Federico Liss (Leo), Isabel Quinteros (Maria Elena); Runtime: 99; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Fernando Diaz, Roxana Ramos; IFC Films/Shudder release; 2023-Argentina/USA-in Spanish with English subtitles).

“The original horror film is not for everyone and especially not for those unable to watch children mauled by mad dogs without turning purple.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Argentinian filmmaker Demian Rugna (“Terrified”/”Cursed Bastards”) directs and writes this exhausting zombie flick. It’s scary, violent, and has some imposing supernatural fare, as it translates as a twisty psychological horror pic about demonic-possession. The original horror film is not for everyone and especially not for those unable to watch children mauled by mad dogs without turning purple.

One night gunshots are heard in the woods in a rural farming community in Argentina. We learn that Maria Elena (Isabel Quinteros) hired an exorcist Cleaner to free her oldest son Uriel from being demonically possessed for the past year. He’s bloated and green pus is oozing out of his body, as he’s a “rotten” poised to give birth to an evil entity while lying on a death bed in a shack with his mom and brother. The rules of engagement have been violated by the Cleaner, who fires a gun to free the possessed Uriel. We’re told that “guns can’t be used to exorcise the possessed,” as that will only unleash a hellish plague on the world. The inept Cleaner is found in the woods with a mutilated half body.

Maria Elena consults with her farmer landlord Ruiz (Luis Ziembrowski) on what to do, as the authorities refuse to help with her son’s possession problem. The plan by Ruiz and his neighbor farmer brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodriguez) and Jimi (Demian Salomon), who after hearing gunshots at night in the woods come to see Ruiz and help him to remove Uriel in a truck to take him far-away from others in the wilderness. But this plan recklessly goes against the procedures for exorcism, as the “rotten” escapes and endangers the world.

Thereby the entity is unleashed and possesses Ruiz’s pregnant wife. She then violently kills her husband.

The bumbling brothers become alarmed by what they see and flee the area.

Rugna fills the screen with scary unsettling images, as an epic plague of demonic possession sweeps across the world, threatening to bring an end to it.

In a manipulative way, the filmmaker states how delusional people can be and how anyone can become possessed or go on a mad rage if there are no safeguards in society to prevent evil from spreading.

It’s a bold horror pic, filled with blood and gore, but lacking humor and substance. Its message to society is a warning to be wary of those who seek to solve things through violence or other inappropriate means.

It played at the Fantastic Fest.