What might seem like a stock-standard demonic possession film from the outside, Here Comes The Devil is a much different thing once you’re into it. Director Adrián García Bogliano weaves a fairy simple story from the onset but delves into unexpected, more complex and darker territory as things progress and the feeling you’re left with is certainly not the one you expect. This is both a positive and a negative because one the one hand, a good solid switcheroo can be bracing and fun. On the other hand, the path to get there can be muddled and strange for no reason and the distraction that can cause can dull out the momentum of a film.
Somehow or other, Here Comes The Devil does both these things at different points which results in a decidedly strange but unique film that pushes boundaries in a way that does not seem boorish or glaring. That isn’t to imply the film doesn’t have some brashness to it, because it absolutely does, it just doesn’t get all self-congratulatory about pushing the envelope; a job much better suited to Todd Solondz films.
The film starts out with a fairly outlandish sex scene with two women that is cut short by the attack of a machete toting nut intent on beating one of the women nearly to death not before lopping off a couple of her fingers. This scene seems to mean nothing once we transition to the main story but ultimately it comes back around in a surprising and interesting way and gives a bit of heft to everything else that happens. The film then shifts gears to a family of four out for a family outing near a large hill with impressive rock formations with all the nooks and crannies large piles of boulders can create. Mother and father, played very well by Laura Caro as Sol and Francisco Barreiro (We Are What We Are – original) as Felix, are seemingly average middle-aged parents. They are passively annoyed at their children’s wants and needs and give in to the request to go on a hike up into the bouldered area. With time on their hands, the parents amuse themselves in an adult way in the car and then promptly fall asleep.
Upon waking, they realize their children (preteen boy and newly teen girl) have not returned at the agreed-upon time and appear to be missing. This creates and instant sense of dread and shame on the part of Felix and Sol as they probably should’ve been on top of where the kids were. Come the next day, the children appear again, found on the side of the road, appearing unharmed. This sigh of relief is short-lived because the kids seem the be exhibiting strange behavior and an unsettling connection to one another all of a sudden. They appear sullen and dull eyed and not like themselves at all which prompts trips to a child psychologist to figure out the cause. This sequence seems to open the door to a truly ugly thought on the part of any parent: that the children were abducted and assaulted during the time they were gone.
Sol and Felix lose their collective shit in an oddly measured kind of way which results in their tracking down a potential suspect in the kids’ dissapearance and trying to get the truth out of him. This scene (and lead up to it) are a bit of a transition point because from that point forward the film takes on a different feel, a different temperature. The children start to seem like a threat, like a foreign body and not the people their parents think they are. This is never outlined in some long speech or dumb medical revelation or anything like that and is, instead, poured out over scenes of increasing disturbing feeling and imagery. One sequence in particular involving their attendance at school and another with strange goings on with their babysitter gave me goosebumps.
The film goes a bit nutty in the final act and it takes a bit of patience to tie everything together. It is not that it is complicated as much as the disparate parts are pretty creepy and off-putting so the connections and conclusions you make are a murky, ugly quagmire. That plays in contrast to the jet black outcome that leaves you questioning what it is you thought might be happening at various points of the film and what-all the facts really are. It is a thin line between tweaking rules and totally ignoring rules in a film once you get to the end but this film doesn’t step over that line. The logic of it all doesn’t fall apart and once the credits roll you get the sense that you just got handled right from the get-go in this film. There isn’t anything lazy or phoned in about how it all slides in together but nothing overly thought out or clever either. It is just dark and icky and challenging and when you take stock of it all, man, do you want to take a shower or three.
As an aside, kudos to the production team for really maintaining a textural feel to the film that helps you stay with it. Too much sheen or too little grit would’ve been a disservice to the mean, black heart at the center of it but it all stays consistent throughout. Same goes for the sometimes manic score that punctuates brutal scenes with a seemless effectiveness and sparse presence in the calmer moments.
If you were a fan of Bogliano’s Cold Sweat or Penumbra with the balance of screwed-uppedness, sexuality and horror, then this film is right up your alley. If you’re looking for yet another Devil Inside-type possession retread, this probably won’t work for you.