The possession story is one that horror fans know all too well. A demonic or parasitic force creeps its way into a human’s body, wiping away all traces of them and replacing it with something sinister. It frequently manifests as pure evil unleashing itself into its immediate surroundings with a body horror flare. The person’s aesthetic appearance devolves into something delightfully nightmarish. Demián Rugna’s Spanish language horror film When Evil Lurks certainly holds true to the classic possession story. However, it takes notable deviations from this subgenre’s norms. Some leaps stick a solid landing while others barely take flight but it comes together for an entertaining film to add to your Halloween watch list. 

When Evil Lurks follows brothers Pedro (Ezequiel Rodriguez) and Jimmy (Demián Salomon) discover something grotesque that leads to something worse. There’s a “rotten” (read: possessed being) that is bloated and sort of decaying in a nearby farmhouse. All of the typical logical choices, like shooting it or calling in religious reinforcements, either don’t come into play or work to their detriment. The result is an unleashing of evil that spreads across their rural community and has profound effects on their family. Pedro and Jimmy are not the brightest horror duo ever, so their missteps are our entertainment.

This film jerkily hops between full-on panic, quieter emotional character beats, and grotesque scenes, which is in odd contrast to its overall steady pacing. Speaking of grotesqueness, When Evil Lurks gives a hefty offering to the gorefest gods. The best kind of movie is one that knows exactly what it is. And this flick’s primary purpose is to disturb you and make your stomach turn. These well-crafted scenes—and not necessarily the film’s at times convoluted plot—are what will resonate strongest with viewers.

IFC Films/Shudder

The tension is palpable, the blood is spilling, and the power of this malevolent force becomes abundantly clear. When Evil Lurks‘ perpetrators and victims take on many faces that we don’t wish to see, from young children to typically adorable animals, while expanding its world quite well. One can’t help but make loose connections to this swiftly spreading yet seemingly commonplace force and what the world has experienced with the COVID-19 pandemic. The same goes for human evil, specifically in terms of colorism. But again, those are not the large crux of the film, which is sick, twisted, and rather bizarre entertainment.

When Evil Lurks does fall into pockets of overexplaining its lore instead of just trusting its audience. The first half sets an intriguing stage with physical and emotional terror. Unfortunately, the latter half never quite dials things up. There are some striking scenes in pockets that somehow culminate in a fizzled end. What will keep viewers in the game are the film’s performances, which elevate its material significantly. When Evil Lurks isn’t packing the same powerful punch as Rugna’s Terrified (2017) but it is far from being a terrible film. There are different flavors for horror fans to chew on, if they dare to give it a go.

When Evil Lurks hits theaters on October 6 with a Shudder streaming release on October 27.

When Evil Lurks