Fantastic Fest 2012 Review: Here Comes The Devil
Review by Eric Lefenfeld
This world of ours is far from lacking in tales of demonic possession. The last few years alone have brought us The Possession and The Last Exorcism (with a sequel on the way). Leave it to Adrián García Bogliano, returning to Fantastic Fest with his third fever dream of a film in as many years, to infuse some life into the well-worn genre.
Felix (Francisco Barreiro) and Sol (Laura Caro) are on a rare family outing in the countryside. In a moment of parental laxness, the kids are given permission to hike in the hills by themselves. There’s a long night of despair and arguments when the children don’t return on time, but order is restored when they’re found the following morning. It quickly becomes apparent, though, that something is different about the kids. Felix and Sol strive to uncover the truth, but to reveal any more would spoil the unexpected turns the story takes.
The film blends a host of disparate elements that shouldn’t necessarily work in tandem with one another. There’s the aforementioned possession, of course, but the mix also includes elements of both a domestic drama and a revenge thriller. Barreiro and Caro are raked across the emotional spectrum, but the actors are able to keep up and stay grounded in the wake of Bogliano’s somewhat manic tonal shifts. They don’t stop feeling like real people as the story just keeps spinning and spinning in increasingly wild circles. It helps that everything is just slightly off from the get-go. The camera will quickly push in on characters’ faces at the end of some scenes, and not ever at any particularly tense point. They’re just little buttons that shouldn’t be there, and the effect is unsettling.
“Undertone” is too weak a phrase to describe the sexual pinnings that hang over the film. Sex and horror go hand in hand, of course, but the trope feels refreshingly raw in this case. In Bogliano’s universe, there’s no such thing as making love. There’s a primal ferocity at play in all of the film’s sexual encounters, including one crucial scene early in the film in which Felix and Sol steal a few moments for themselves and have a lusty moment together in their car. The scene brings the tension to a boil, but the pair are getting each other off by talking about their childhood sexual experiences. It feels wrong, and not in the fun context of “ooooh, we’re being so naughty.”
Honestly, it’s been difficult to articulate just exactly why the film left such a strong impression, but perhaps that’s what makes it such a special little tale. The movie feels like a nightmare, but it never falls back on any sort of non-linear dream logic. The end result is a film that manages to be grounded and completely batshit at the same time. There are standard horror movie scares, of course, but there’s this underlying, almost intangible sense of dread hanging over everything like a dark cloud. It’s a difficult tone to strike, but Bogliano keeps it simmering throughout. Regardless of one’s final assessment, there’s no arguing that Here Comes The Devil is a unique and nasty creature of a movie, especially within an increasingly tired corner of the horror sphere.