Imagine pure evil existing as a solid physical entity, and then think of a scenario when this evil can be transferred from one body to another, just like some deadly virus, to cause massive carnage. This is the exact premise of the new Argentine horror film When Evil Lurks (Cuando acecha la maldad in native Spanish), in which two brothers have to face a series of strange occurrences in their town after a neighbor has been seemingly cursed by pure evil. Although When Evil Lurks is not the most satisfying or compelling film with regards to its plot or concepts, it surely makes up for this shortcoming through the immensely gory and disturbing visuals till its very end.
Plot Summary: What is the film about?
Set in a rural town in Argentina, When Evil Lurks begins with the sound of five gunshots coming from open fields in the distance. Two brothers, Pedro and Jaime, worriedly look out of their windows, wondering whether the sound has come from their fields. That is not the case, though, as one of them points out, and despite the sound coming from the nearby forest, it is definitely not of any poacher since no hunter would shoot five bullets. The brothers initially think of going out to check along with their guard dogs, but then decide otherwise, fearing that they might get attacked too. Instead, Pedro and Jaime step out early the next morning, looking for anything unusual near the forest.
They stumble upon a peculiar scene, as the dead body of a man lies at the place with the body neatly cut into two pieces at the waist. Some strange-looking instrument pieces are also found, but Pedro and Jaime cannot make anything of them. Following a clue that shows that the man had been heading to a nearby house, the brothers also reach the same place. The matriarch of the house, Maria Elena, does make things clearer but also mentions something unbelievable. Maria reveals that her eldest son, Uriel, had become “rotten”, or possessed by evil, and so she had requested for a “cleaner,” or essentially an exorcist, to come and kill the man. But as the cleaner had been brutally murdered by someone, Pedro and Jaime disbelievingly ask for help from another neighbor, Ruiz, about the matter.
Being a disgruntled landowner whose wife is also pregnant at the time, Ruiz decides to not take any chance and to move the possessed Uriel to somewhere far away from their town. Pedro, Jaime, and Ruiz together load the unnaturally large Uriel onto their truck and intend to drive hundreds of miles away from their town. However, as they have to avoid an accident on the road, the possessed body strangely falls out of the truck, seemingly somewhere still close to the town. Deciding not to tell anyone about this and to put the matter at rest, the three men return home and continue with their normal lives. But deadly evil hits back soon, when one of Ruiz’s goats gets possessed, and he has to shoot the animal dead. Within seconds, the evil possesses both the man and his wife, killing them and beginning a series of grisly deaths.
Can The Events In The Film Be Considered Psychological?
In the opening few minutes of When Evil Lurks, the possibility of the film being a psychological horror does creep up with regard to its plot points. The central concern of the film is, of course, the rotting man Uriel, whose physical appearance has been taken by his family as a sign of his possession. Uriel is unnaturally large and heavy, without the ability to move on his own, and there are all sorts of bodily fluids secreting from his skin and mouth. The man seems to be literally rotting away, but then these can still be considered to be some terrible physical ailment. The authorities of the town also seem to be of the same opinion, as they do not care much about Maria Elena’s request for a cleansing. When Ruiz approaches the suffering man, Uriel blurts out curses, saying that the evil inside him will haunt the landowner and his pregnant wife. This, too, can be considered the utterances of a mentally ill individual who is bitter toward the whole world around him.
However, as the film progresses, this possibility is completely dismissed, and the existence of a disturbingly real evil is made very clear. The point of this shift seems to be when Ruiz and his wife find something strange about how one of their goats has been behaving. Although they are convinced that the evil spirit has possessed the animal and, therefore, wants to kill it, there is initially nothing unusual about the animal. But this also changes instantly when Ruiz holds out a gun, and the goat simply walks up even closer to him, as if taunting him to shoot it. This is because the evil shown in the film cannot be killed with bullets, and the use of gunpowder only enables it to take possession of the shooter more easily. Thus, as Ruiz kills the goat with the gun, he and his wife are both taken over by evil, resulting in their deaths.
Once When Evil Lurks takes the supernatural route, there is no looking back, even though a few of the characters themselves are still not sure about the exact nature of their situation. For example, Jaime admits later on that he has not seen anything supernatural yet and wonders whether his brother has been hallucinating things. When the brothers meet their mother and take her away from the town, she, too, does not take their words seriously. She seems to jokingly take the different names of the devil right after stating how one must not do so when evil is on the loose, making it clear that she does not believe in such rules or happenings. Unfortunately for both Jaime and his mother, they realize the very real existence of evil by the end of the film.
How Does Pedro Unintentionally Spread The Evil?
Among the many rules to avoid evil is also a specific one, which mentions that one must leave every possession of theirs behind when escaping from the infected place. Pedro and Jaime follow this, as they do not take anything from their house while leaving, but unbeknownst to them, the evil has already contaminated their clothes. Reaching the town, Pedro goes to his ex-wife Sabrina’s house in order to save her and their children. Although the woman is now married to a different man, Pedro wants to protect all of them from the spreading evil, so he urges them to leave the house and come with him. Sabrina and her husband are obviously shocked at this sudden emergence, especially when Pedro strips all his clothes and asks for some fresh ones.
Pedro suspects that his clothes are also dangerous, but before he destroys them, the family dog starts to smell them. Surely enough, the dog now gets possessed and attacks Sabrina’s daughter from her second marriage. In response, her husband shoots the dog with his gun, and like earlier, this easily makes the evil take him into possession. The husband runs his car into Sabrina and their daughter and kills them, along with ending his own life. Pedro witnesses all of this as he frantically takes his two sons, Santi and Jair, away from the place. Meeting up with Jaime, who has picked up their mother, Pedro intends to drive as far away from the town as they can. However, the mother soon receives a call from Sabrina’s number, and when Pedro picks it up, he is told by the possessed ex-wife that she will come to fetch her children by any means.
Some details about the family and their past are also revealed in this segment, starting with the fact that Pedro and Sabrina had gone through a messy separation. Their firstborn son, Jair, is autistic and had been born in this unfortunate state, following which Pedro had wanted to abandon and kill him. He had apparently once switched off the machinery that supported Jair’s life during his childhood, wanting to end his life, but this act had been caught by the rest of the family. It was also because of this reason that the man fell out with Sabrina, and the two ended their marriage. Both of them blamed the other for Jair’s condition, and Sabrina had started having affairs with other men. Towards the end of When Evil Lurks, it is also hinted that Sabrina even had an affair with her own brother-in-law, Jaime.
Who Is Mirta, And What Does She Reveal About The Situation?
After receiving the spine-chilling call from the dead Sabrina, Pedro tells Jaime about everything that has happened, and the brother now comes up with a solution. Many years ago, Jaime had known a woman named Mirta, who had told him about how she had witnessed a similar rotting body and the spreading evil that followed. Jaime now takes his family to Mirta’s house, asking for help from the elderly lady. It is also revealed that Jaime and Mirta had once been lovers, but the affair did not last long. After hearing everything from the brothers, Mirta seems to still have some doubts, until strange occurrences start at her house as well.
A possessed Sabrina with blood dripping from her head appears and takes away Santi, literally jumping off the balcony and running away. It is later seen that Sabrina has killed her son and has started to eat up his body as well. Mirta also spots a movement in Jair’s hands, which she sees as a sign that the evil has already entered his body but has not yet been able to reach his mind because of his autistic brain. Although Jaime does not believe the woman when she says this, her belief turns out to be exactly true, as later at night, Jair walks out of the car and enters the house, calmly asking for food from his grandmother. This is very unusual and extremely spooky, given the fact that Jair was unable to walk or talk because of his autism.
Convinced that pure evil is definitely on the loose, Mirta reveals that many years ago, she and her husband, a pastor by profession, used to run a church. She admits that they were frauds who treated the church only as their business, and so when the first possessed individual in Buenos Aires arrived at their church, they thought that he must have been acting. But the possession was very real, and soon evil spread across the city. Mirta and her husband perceived this as a divine punishment for their disrespect for faith and religion. A group of monks told them about the way to contain this evil, and this required a special procedure to be performed with the help of certain instruments, and the possessed body needed to be killed before it gave birth to evil embodied as a human child. It was pieces of this instrument that the brothers had seen near the dead body at the beginning of the film. Mirta now makes it clear that they need to find the source of the evil—Uriel’s rotting body—and destroy it with her instrument, which would stop the evil.
What Happens To Pedro, Jaime, And The Rest Of Their Family?
As Pedro and Mirta head towards the town to find Uriel’s body, the woman is sure that it must be inside the local school, for children and evil are always drawn towards each other. This guess of hers also turns out to be true, for Uriel’s rotting but alive body is indeed found hidden inside the school. Mirta starts her procedure to kill the possessed body, but it now starts to directly talk to Pedro, asking him to kill it. These words get to Pedro’s head, and when the possessed children also lie about an ax in the next room, the protagonist leaves Mirta alone and goes to fetch the ax. He quickly finds out that there is no weapon at the place, and the evil takes this moment to attack Mirta and drag her away. As the procedure is never completed, the possessed body of Uriel gives birth to a boy, who is evil in the form of a human.
During When Evil Lurks‘ ending, it is the evil that triumphs over the good, and the world will soon be possessed. Pedro returns to their house in town dejectedly and gives Jair some ice cream to calm him down. The boy has symptoms of autism once again, and now Pedro pulls out a lump of hair and a crucifix necklace from inside the boy’s mouth. This makes it clear that in a possessed state, Jair had killed and eaten up his grandmother, for the hair and the crucifix necklace both belonged to the woman. At the same time, Jaime goes to the barn and finds Maria Elena’s younger son there.
The younger son, Uriel’s brother, had come to take shelter at Pedro’s house on the night of Ruiz’s death, and he has been at the place since then. The boy now reveals that it was he who killed the first exorcist before he could reach Uriel’s house. He admits that a voice inside his head had told him to do so, meaning that the evil had already spread from Uriel’s body to his brother’s mind by then. It was the younger brother who had cut off the exorcist’s body and fed parts of it to the pigs. He then admits that he, too, had eaten the flesh and then further states that he had killed and eaten up his own mother, just like Jair had done with his grandmother. It has been stated that one way to escape the evil is to not be afraid of it, and Pedro and Jamie seem immune because they are not scared of being possessed. However, this bravery does not ultimately do them any good, as the whole world around them has been possessed or killed by evil, and When Evil Lurks ends with the brothers helplessly crying at their misfortune.