Here Comes the Devil (2012)
★★★ / ★★★★
Adolfo (Alan Martinez) and Sara (Michele Garcia) are given by their mother an hour and a half to explore a rocky hill before they head for home. When Sol (Laura Caro) and Felix (Francisco Barreiro) wake up from a nap, it has started to get dark but there is still no sign of their children. They contact the police but even they cannot do anything about the missing kids until morning.
Sara and Adolfo are found eventually. However, there is something very different about them. They are far less lively and very distant. Sol suspects that the children have been sexually molested by a strange man (David Arturo Cabezud) at the gas station. But she forgets that the gas station attendant has mentioned something about the hill being considered a cursed place by the Indians who once lived there.
Written and directed by Adrián García Bogliano, “Ahí va el diablo” is a horror picture that is concerned with creating an unsettling feeling, whether it be about the details of what exactly happened to the children that night or the parents’ willingness to find someone who might be responsible for the trauma that has metastasized in their home. Despite its title, there is no exorcism. There is no prayer. There is no god. There is only a mother and a father who are desperate to find—but not are ill-equipped to handle—the truth.
Since the film’s center is the parents, it is most important that we buy them as a real couple. There is a rawness to Caro and Barreiro’s performances that is critical. In a lot of modern, commercialized American horror films, there is a glamorization in parental portrayal that almost always never work. We see movie stars instead of the ordinary people that they are playing. Here, when Sol and Felix fight, make love, or sit at the dinner table, they look, sound, and feel like a couple we might know from down the street. I appreciated that because their ordinariness makes the horror feel closer to us.
The screenplay is traditionally written and executed in that it constructs an escalation of bizarre events. A few details are familiar, surely inspired by other films, but it is not predictable as a whole because it offers a small surprise just when we are about to process and react to what we believe is occurring.
I admired that the picture is not afraid of very short scenes. It is consistent in getting straight to the point so we are in the state of catching up with it rather than us sitting in our chair wondering when or if it will ever outsmart us.
Though I must say that I was disappointed with the final three minutes of the film. The experience is like rooting for your child or younger cousin to win an intense egg-and-spoon race and just when he or she is about to cross the finish line, the egg drops to the ground and splat! I got the impression that writer-director Bogliano had no idea how to close his story and so he felt he needed to rush the ending to mask the fact. There is nothing more disheartening than a movie that has been so consistently enjoyable ruined by a closing—or several closing scenes—that just does not feel right.
Still, I was engaged by the mysteries of “Here Comes the Devil.” I liked its murky look—which might be attributed to a lack of lighting—because I felt it added to the tension of uncertainty. But what I enjoyed most about it is the rising action. It is handled with precision because we end up wondering whether a paranormal phenomenon is really involved. After all, the reality is, in some cultures, it is easier to cite superstition as an explanation rather than having to deal with concepts like psychology and trauma.