Evil strikes fast and mean in Demián Rugna’s punch-to-the-face new film.
It begins as Argentina is facing a supernatural plague that turns people into bloodthirsty demons, a contagion that has Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez), his brother, Jimi (Demián Salomón), and their rural village on edge. When the brothers come across one of the infected — a man who’s turned into a putrid, drooling. horrifically obese monster — they manage to move him far out of town. But that only spreads the contagion and fear, forcing Pedro and Jimi and their families to flee.
Into the picture comes an older woman (Silvina Sabater, wonderfully understated) who is one of the few who knows how to use a strange (and under-explained) device to kill off the creatures, and it’s her wily mother-protector resolve that drives the film’s frenzied final stretch. That is until Pedro makes an out-of-character decision that ends the otherwise smart story on a what-were-you-thinking note.
Rugna’s film is at its most electric when it delivers jolts of stomach-churning violence to push the action forward and build its brutal world. A horrific scene involving a dog and a little girl happened so suddenly and gruesomely, I sat up and gasped out loud.
If only Rugna’s script had more such explosive moments and fewer directionless loose ends, like Pedro’s undercooked relationships with his mother and his autistic son. Still, this is a dark and timely parable about what happens when trust — among community members, within families, between a government and its people — disintegrates.
When Evil Lurks
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. In theaters.