TIFF 2023 | When Evil Lurks (Demián Rugna, Argentina) — Midnight Madness

By Adam Nayman

In horror movies—as in life—rules are made to be broken. After learning that one of their fellow villagers has been infected with a demon, two ornery brothers—one a family man, one a wildcard, neither particularly bright—decide to transport the possessed party into the middle of nowhere: out of sight, out of mind. They do this despite myriad warnings that the proper protocol for disposing of so-called “rottens” is considerably more complicated, and the comeuppance for their brazen laziness will be the slow, brutal destruction of an entire community, and maybe the world beyond as well. Squint and there’s a timeless—and yet still historically specific—socio-political allegory hiding in the margins of Demián Rugna’s gratifyingly nasty gross-out, which skims the politics of disappearance; the relentless bleakness suggests a pose, albeit one held with considerable control and conviction by a director who’s too respectful of genre tropes too bother elevating them. Slightly overlong for the story it’s telling and hampered by a standard-issue streaming-content sheen, When Evil Lurks doesn’t necessarily bring anything new to the table in terms of imagery or viscera, but at least it ladles out what it’s got in steaming, pile-high portions.