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Matt at the Movies: Horror Haven
Come for the listicle, stay for a review of "When Evil Lurks." Matt says "you can’t beat this for a top notch horror film that leaves you both disgusted and wanting more of their world."
PS - This article has an “extra credits scene” for fans of Matt at the Movies.
Halloween is just around the corner, and as we’ve talked about in previous articles Hollywood’s most stable isn’t superhero movies, but rather the horror genre. Horror films tap into our inner fears and insecurities. They draw out suspense from exploiting the banality of everyday life and can terrorize us with a simple interaction gone awry.
A conversation that inadvertently slighted a psychopath at a bar store leads to a ninety minute car chase through the countryside. The ring of a doorbell at 10:30 PM on a sleepy night, and a well-groomed stranger relying on neighborly kindness to help with “car trouble.” Children in freaking cornfields!
And, every now and again, the Good vs. Evil showdown that pits biblical foes against each other for the fate of the human race.
Blumhouse is the industry leader in low budget, high-yield horror with over 200 multi-platform productions and $5.7 billion in revenue. For horror films of all tastes, budgets, and quality while spanning the globe look no further than a $5.99 subscription to Shudder that will have all your Needful Things. Even Netflix jumped into the horror series production bandwagon the last few years with successful titles such as The Haunting of Hill House, the wildly popular comedy Wednesday based off The Addams Family, and the upcoming The Fall of the House of Usher.
Before we dive into today’s film, let’s see what is available streaming right now to view in hopes of filling that macabre hole in your soul:
Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (Paramount+) - We travel back to 1969 and see Fred Gwynne’s character from the terrifying original film, Jud Crandall, as a young man trying to battle an ancient evil in his small New England town. Jackson White, a terrific young actor and daughter of Katey Segal (Futurama, Married with Children), stars in this decent prequel that is a nice way to pass a couple hours if you enjoyed the Stephen King original; But remember … sometimes, dead is better.
Totally Killer (Prime Video) - A time travel horror comedy, what could go wrong? Director Nahnatchka Khan (Always Be My Maybe) brings some familiar faces to try and solve a thirty-five year old mystery of a serial killer who killed three girls stabbing them each sixteen times. Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) travels back in time using her best friend's science project to try and apprehend the killer who was responsible for her mother’s death. This is a fun movie and if you don’t take it too seriously you’ll have a good time.
No One Will Save You (Hulu) - This is a slower burn that features a great performance by Kaitlyn Dever (Booksmart), who plays a social outcast homebody who must fend off an alien invasion. This drew high praise from Stephen King who posted on Twitter, “NO ONE WILL SAVE YOU: Brilliant, daring, involving, scary. You have to go back over 60 years, to a TWILIGHT ZONE episode called The Invaders (1961) to find anything remotely like it. Truly unique.”
Aberrance (Video on Demand) - This film is set in the Mongolian wilds and features a couple who has moved from the city to a rural cabin so wife Selenge can have the environment to focus on her artwork. The tagline gives a great summation without giving too many details: “Foreboding neighbors, frivolous friends, and dark unseen forces lead to a shocking conclusion.” We won’t spoil the rest but it’s a solid watch.
The Exorcist: Believer (currently in theaters) - Ninety-year-old Ellen Burstyn and Linda Blair reprise their roles from the original film as two young girls are lost in the woods of Georgia only to be found later with no recollection of their disappearance. Single father Victor (Leslie Odom Jr.) hunts down Burstyn’s Chris MacNeil to gain insight on the demonic possession his daughter experiences to try and expel the evil spirit from the girls. Director David Gordon Green, who has previous horror work with his Halloween reboots, tries to recapture the same magic, but it feels uneven never quite capturing the horror or suspense of the original.
Now that you have your horror playlist to consume, let's get to our main feature of the day which is currently playing at the Independent Picture House. Last year we were treated to a terribly upsetting Danish film titled Speak No Evil that gave me visual flashback nightmares for weeks along with a feeling of impending dread. This year the international scene has gifted us another gem with When Evil Lurks.
In a Nutshell
Set in rural Argentina, brothers Pedro and Jimmy are startled by a gunshot in the night and go investigate. They find a gruesome severed body, some strange equipment, and documents that lead them to a small shack where an elderly mother has been hiding her possessed “rotted” son Uriel who is being used as a vessel for a demonic spirit to be reborn.
There seems to be an uneasy feeling about the spiritual state of the country and the presence of an ever impending evil looming that now has come to roost in this small town. Animals are acting strange, families are weary of one another, and a feeling of conviction to stop the spread of this darkness consumes each of the main characters.
As the brothers and local landowner Armando load the bloated, pus-filled corpse to dispose of it far away from their loved ones, the body mysteriously goes missing in transport. The evil is now loose and infecting loved ones around them. Pedro and Jimmy hurry to rescue their family, leave the countryside, and find answers for how to stop this spread.
The movie has some truly upsetting and chilling scenes as they encounter a “cleaner” who acts as a pseudo exorcist to help cleanse the country of these infected people. Can they act in time to keep their family and potentially the world safe from this unborn evil before time runs out?
Time Is Money, Why Should I Go?
This film is an exercise in punishment and lost hope.
As the world seemingly is falling apart at the seams, the Yarzulo brothers are put at their wits end to make the right choices for their family. As the movie unfolds you can’t help but keep your eyes peeled to the screen wondering what horrible situation will pop up next. The demons mock both the main characters and our own sensibility of what is reality versus sick lies. The use of children as a vehicle of discomfort whether it be in the womb or taunting the main characters is as much gut wrenching as deplorable. This is about as high of a recommendation as I can possibly give when describing a horror film. Dread mixed with gore and the punishment of going for the journey.
Spill the Tea
Buenos Aires born director Demián Rugna has written about paranormal activities before, but this new film got rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival and it’s to see why. Partnering with IFC Films distribution, the film gets a limited release in the US before it heads to the Shudder horror streaming service on October 27th.
Star of the Show
Brother and father Pedro played by actor Ezequiel Rodriguez is given the heaviest burden to bear. This ex-con, seemingly deadbeat father is launched into extraordinary circumstances to not only save his family but also fight off the demonic blight that casts its shadow on him at every turn. He endures so much physical and psychological damage over the course of the film that you keep wondering when he’ll give up.
Rodriguez plays frantically off his scene counterparts. Whether it’s his brother Jimmy, an ex-wife, his autistic son Jair, an elderly mother, or the “cleaner” Mierta, you can see the trauma start to overtake his ability to make sound decisions. It’s a great performance of someone in distress.
Don’t Sleep On
Young children being absolutely terrifying. It can be the smallest stare from the distance or simple comment uttered during chaos that is bone chilling. This evil preys on children to help do its bidding and Rugna wins this game in spades.
(Speaking of young children, you can find my top five ranking of terrifying young children in horror movies after the “Breakdown” graphic)
Best Ten Minute Stretch
Once the evil is let out it starts to create a trail of death in its path. We watch a goat become possessed that leads to a truly heinous scene and immediately we’re off with Pedro as he tries to get his ex-wife and kids to come with him to escape before it’s too late. Well it is too late and the horror that happens in this small town as the spirit spreads is both awful and thoroughly entertaining.
Coulda used a little more…
explanation of the status of Argentina in what seems like a post-religious society. There is plenty of Catholicism and spirituality, but the concept of the Church seems to be dead. The job of the “cleaners” - along with their equipment - is never explained, even though we get some heavy exposition on the nature of their job. We also learn of seven rules that must be followed to deal with these evils that are never quite explained. Maybe it’s for the best, because it’s been in my brain for three nights now.
MatM Score: 9/10
You can’t beat this for a top notch horror film that leaves you both disgusted and wanting more of this world. Highly Recommend!
Pieces together the overall “vibe” this movie brings from other past releases.
Bonus: Top Five Most Terrifying Children in Horror Movies
5. Samara from The Ring movies. Her mannerisms and look are pure nightmare fuel.
4. Damien from The Omen who works as a puppet master to disturb the world around him.
3. Isaac from Children of the Corn who runs a cult and murders all of the adults in his town while also looking creepy as hell.
2. Regan MacNeil from The Exorcist who’s vomit spewing, ceiling crawling, head twisting, foul-mouthed, demon possessed body has been an icon for fifty years.
1. Gage Creed from Pet Sematary went from being the sweetest little toddler to a scalpel wielding blood zombie that murders with zero discretion.
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