The effectiveness of a horror movie is something largely argued by horror fans. Is an effective horror film a blood drenched rollercoaster ride through a cursed campground where deviant counselors meet their untimely ends? Is an effective horror film a slow burning decent into madness where humans are the prey of a centuries old consciousness waiting to devour our very sense of self and replace it with a ravenous evil? Often, as a reviewer, I try to keep my mind open and remind myself, and my audience, that there really is no magic bullet. Sometimes the effectiveness is almost intangible; a whisper, the minor notes of a sonata, a shadow. Other times it is a full frontal assault, a visceral blow to the senses, a meat cleaver to the face if you will. Argentian director Adrian Bogliano might not have the magic bullet either, but he fires enough palpable dread and weirdness at us, that in spite of some of its choices in the latter part of the film, Here Comes the Devil succeeds at being a pretty effective little horror film.
The film follows Felix and Sol, a husband and wife that seemingly despite their best efforts haven’t been altogether successful at spending quality time with each other or their family as a whole. On a day trip in Tijuana (yeah, yeah, we all know good things rarely come outta Tijuana unless you’re keen on some rather specific underground entertainment) the couple opt for a little impromptu “sumpin sumpin” in the car while the kids play and quickly drift into post coital slumber oblivious to the absence of their children. The two wake up hours later to find their children missing and quickly call the local authorities. The following day the children are returned safely via the police with a lot of unanswered questions amidst ghost stories concerning the hill they originally disappeared on. All would seem right with the world, right?
Well, the good mother Sol quickly realizes that although her children are back in body, their spirit is suspiciously lacking and her thoughts start to turn back to their disappearance and the unaccounted for time in which they were missing. Her investigation leads her to the idea that her children were not just lost, but abducted and their change in behavior is simply a symptom of their innocence being ripped away from them that night on the hill. In the heart of every parent lurks the dark, vengeance obsessed spirit of a vigilante when they feel their children are threatened or their innocence compromised and Felix and Sol decide to take the law into their own hands.
The police soon question the couple concerning the murder of a local man believed to have “voyeuristic tastes” and just as we think the two have been found out, the film takes another detour into weirdsville and ultimately starts heading towards some interesting reveals, but a somewhat less than satisfying conclusion.
The first half of the film’s weirdness is in fact what gives it its effectiveness and I couldn’t help but be reminded of Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock. The movie, which during its first 30 minutes, drifts strangely back and forth between a strange charged sexuality of its characters and the ethereal dream-like shots of the hill that hint at some unseen hidden world, seems to hide a meaning and reverence that the viewer is left looking for far past the point well the plot starts to take on a more linear traditional path. The film, during this time, is VERY creepy and so laden with dread that its hits a note of suspense that we rarely see in indie fair of its ilk. It is also in this first half that we come to realize that the true star of Here Comes the Devil is Sol, Felix’s wife. Sol, played by Laura Caro, wears many hats in the film and it is her ease in which she shifts from role to role that showcases the character as a woman who maintains her sexuality as a wife while still being the champion of her children. It also helps that Caro oozes sexuality as soon as the actress is introduced on screen, resulting in one of the hotter, more sensual make out sessions I’ve seen in a horror film in a long, LONG time.
I’m going to attempt to keep this relatively spoiler free, but suffice it so say that Sol soon finds out that not all is well with her children and is faced with a choice that threatens her life, sanity and possibly her soul. As I’ve already said, Here Comes the Devil is not without its problems, many of which show up in the second half of the film and when they do rear their head, its enough to negate some of that fantastic dread so expertly crafted in the beginning. Although centered on a Mexican family through the eyes of an Argentinian director, Devil never seems to alienate its international audience and the story works well to never seem too culturally specific. At the end of the day Here Comes the Devil is a well crafted horror film that gives us a fantastic 40 minutes that unfortunately works against its latter half. We do, however, get some great gore when the time finally arrives, AND, I haveta mention it, some rather fantastic nudity that proves that horror can still be sexy. RECOMMENDED. Rating: 3 and a half hypos out of 5.