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The ultimate terror for any even half-decent parent is the
unthinkable—yet perfectly plausible—concept of losing their child. That primal
fear is even more profound in a mother, she who miraculously grew this tiny
person inside her and whose connection to her charge is one of the most
powerful bonds known.
In Argentinean director Adrián García Bogliano’s shuddery
new Mexican-made horror-drama HERE COMES THE DEVIL (a world premiere at the
Toronto International Film Festival), both the ferocity of motherhood and the nightmare of lost children are
explored in grim, all-too-real detail. But this dark, domestic treatise is
goosed by a genuinely skin-crawling supernatural streak, one that does not
negate the realities of the story, but rather serves to accentuate it, boiling
to fever pitch that by its final, delirious reel is almost unbearably intense.
The film stars Mexican superstar Francisco Barreiro (so
memorable in the masterful WE ARE WHAT WE ARE) as Felix, husband to the
gorgeous Sol (singer Laura Caro in her feature film debut) and father to two
sweet preteen children, Adolfo (Alan Martinez) and Sara (Michele Garcia). When
the family takes a road trip into the Tijuana hills, the kids go off together
to explore the surrounding scenic caves. And never return.
As the couple agonizes over the fates of their pretty ones,
Adolfo and Sara do indeed come back. But over the next several days, it becomes
clear that something is wrong. Terribly wrong. Initially thinking the children
suffered some sort of predator-inflicted trauma (which leads the couple to
commit a transgressive act), Sol soon unwinds and, in getting too close to the
truth about her brood, seals her fate.
Echoing the ambiguous, sound-and-image-charged fury of
cinema sensualists like Ken Russell and Nicolas Roeg, HERE COMES THE DEVIL
hooks its audience immediately, with an intense, explicit lesbian sex scene
followed by a vicious assault that sets the tone for the earthy, erotic and
spastically violent texture that coats the picture like a sheen of greasy
sweat. Sex and death and the dark link between the two are at the black heart
of the film, with human coupling either preceding or accompanying bloodshed,
and in many ways, it is sexuality that is responsible for the family’s
nightmare to begin with.
The locations add much to the movie’s fabric, with simple,
organic, natural imagery (the stony, cavernous hills that hide the movie’s
wrenching secret are terrifying in their bleakness) combining with frank, lusty
depictions of sexuality that make the unreal aspects of the movie disturbingly
authentic. Unlike your run-of-the-mill American possession film—I’m looking at
you, THE RITE—the true shock in HERE COMES THE DEVIL doesn’t lie in the
spectacle of watching writhing bodies regurgitate warmed-over pea soup, it
hides in the ordinary, and in the maddening idea that the babies who sit at the
center of your web are not your babies anymore…and perhaps would even like to
inflict harm upon you.
Most importantly, HERE COMES THE DEVIL—though aided by a
devastating turn by Caro (whose mother-gone-mad downward spiraling performance
is maybe second only to Charlotte Gainsbourg in another recent, similar
art-house horror film, ANTICHIRST)—is most assuredly an auteur picture, a
directorial tour de force. Bogliano (who also made the raunchy COLD SWEAT)
knows the language of cinema and fully comprehends what makes a horror film
work, even celebrating oft-abused tropes like smash cuts, sound blasts and
wigged-out zooms, using them as surreal stings to mirror the psychological
states of the characters. Literally every second of this film is controlled—and
that includes the ample sequences when things are out of control.
We watch horror to have our id stimulated, to push our
boundaries, and that’s the easy part of any filmmaker’s job; the craft comes
from knowing how to expertly manipulate your audience, and Bogliano does both
admirably. Because of this, HERE COMES THE DEVIL is one of the most
interesting, frightening and thoroughly alive—both intellectually and
viscerally—works of horror and dread this critic has seen in a very, very long
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