Monday, January 13, 2014

Here Comes the Devil

This is an impressive little movie, although not for the squeamish. That's less because of the gore - though there's that - than the fact that this film deals with sex and kids, and not separately. I suspect that it's actually less exploitative on the subject than many - it doesn't taunt the audience with jailbait-y forbidden fruit or scare parents with how danger to their kids could lurk around every corner, but finds a way to use its supernatural horrors to speak directly to a parent's fears: That something terrible will happen to their children, that they will somehow lose the ability to connect with their children, or that their children will do terrible things, all of which can be laid at their feet. Since I don't have any kids of my own, I can't speak first-hand. But, man, all of those possibilities must just be the worst.

That's all I'll say before the review; some potentially spoiler-y stuff at the bottom.

Ahí Va el Diablo (Here Comes the Devil)

* * * ½ (out of four)
Seen 11 January 2014 in the Brattle Theatre (first-run, DCP)

There are two sorts of horror movies in the world: The kind looking to make the audience jump with a thrill of excitement and the kind aiming to make them shake because they've been confronted with an idea that truly frightens them. Despite the jocular title, Here Comes the Devil fits the second category much more than the first. Maybe it loses something in translation, but not much of what happens does.

After a prologue that hints at a very different sort of movie, we meet a family from the Tijuana suburbs having a day at the beach - father Felix (Francisco Barreiro), mother Sol (Laura Caro), daughter Sara (Michele Garcia), and son Adolfo (Alan Martinez). Sara and Adolfo go off to explore a nearby hill while the parents have some alone time, and it's only after the kids are late returning that they find out that the locals consider the mountain an evil, cursed place. Thankfully, their children are found on the road, but there's something off about them, perhaps more than can be explained by a night alone in a scary location.

Sex causes trouble in almost all horror stories, but few draw as straight a line as early as writer/director Adrián García Bogliano does here: The opening gives the audience some pre-slasher titillation and the main story doesn't just begin in earnest after Sara has her first period, but has Felix & Sol making love and recounting their first sexual experiences even as their children disappear into a suggestively shaped opening. And while early on, Bogliano is mainly using sex as an amplifier, making sure that the idea of frightening change is at the fore of the audience's mind, there is something innately sexual about many of the later incidents, twisted in ways to evoke a parent's worst fears.

Full review at EFC.


One of the things I found alternately frustrating and intriguing about this movie is that, even though it's an "evil kid" movie, you seldom see said kids actually doing anything. That's not to discount what they do to Marcia - I actually think having most of the details of this sexual assault off-screen makes it a bit worse, as the staging then never looks silly to the audience - but it emphasizes a couple of things.

First, that the devil's power is just as much in what he can inspire others to do than his own capabilities. Felix & Sol commit the film's nastiest murder, and while it's implied that no tears will be shed for the victim, it seems likely that he was innocent in this case. The changelings have manipulated two good people into a horrible act, and a line can be drawn from the tension they created to Felix killing Sol; they pushed these humans to more than they can handle.

The second idea, though, is somewhat in opposition to the first - that the incest and possibly even the attack is their form of the sexual exploration that Felix & Sol discuss in the beginning. It's clumsy, not something one would approve of, but remember, these demons are newly-human, and we don't know that they killed Adolfo & Sara; they may just have taken the opportunities they were given when the kids (and later, the parents) died near a gate to hell. There's a reason Bogliano ends the movie on the car lurching out of frame; the changeling who replaced Felix has never driven before, and is still learning. This doesn't make what they do forgivable, but the idea that these crimes sometimes happen just as a result of learning is a different type of horror.


It's worth considering, though, and while I stand by what I say in the review that Bogliano maybe could have benefited from a co-director or someone else to channel him away from his more exploitative instincts, he gets far enough down these dark, interesting paths to make Here Comes the Devil a heck of a movie.

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