Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Maxi chills with minimum special effects: Adrián García Bogliano's scary HERE COMES THE DEVIL

What is most surprising about HERE COMES THE DEVIL (Ahí va el diablo), the Mexican horror-thriller from writer/director Adrián García Bogliano, is how many strong, off-handed chills it can deliver using nary a special effect. (It's when the filmmaker starts using these that the movie begins to lose steam, but that's another story.) Bogliano's tale is full of religion, along with old-fashioned, Catholic right-and-wrong, and it carries a mile-wide moralistic streak down its back. Yet none of this is hammered home. Rather, it is presented in increments in which characters carry on doing the wrong stuff, after which they pay dearly for it. And we begin to see... maybe a connection?

The film opens with some hot girl-on-girl action, for which -- yep -- retribu-tion is soon demanded in spades. Then a married couple uses the opportu-nity of being child-free for an hour to enjoy a bout of in-the-car sex, along with some dirty talk regarding their former promiscuous couplings. Ooooops: There go the kids. Turns out there are some very nasty demonic "spirits" residing in the hills around the area where all this takes place, and those spirits really do want to join the general populace. You might think of Boglianao's movie (the director is shown above) as a zombie film, but one whose living dead are remarkably staid and not particularly hungry creatures.

From the outset, the movie offers a terrific sense of unease that carries it along quite well for more than half of its slightly overlong, 98-minute running time.

The one hugely violent and bloody scene in the movie manages to work on  two levels -- moving the plot along, as well as making us concerned about what has happened (and why) to our two adults, as well as to their two children.

Performances by the actors who play mom and dad -- they are the movie's real stars: those initial lesbian ladies simply act as jerk-you-to-attention filler --  Laura Caro and Francisco Barreiro (here seen showering after some very nasty business has taken place) are low-key and surprisingly believable, at least until the weird stuff starts happening.

Even then the film doesn't go crazy for effects: lights go on and off, noises sound, and this works just fine. Which does make me question why Bogliano felt he needed to toss in levitation (above) and those phony-looking Diabolique white eyes (below) to spice things up. These are so cliched by now -- and the filmmaker had so nicely avoided this kind of thing -- that they bring the movie down rather than goose it up.

Still, Bogliano keeps some good stuff for his finale and its dark denouement, which has a smart sense of humor, even as it leaves you thoroughly chilled. And then -- my goodness! -- it is suddenly clear that these demons must have missed their course in Driver's Training.

Here Comes the Devil, coming to us via Magnet Releasing, opens this Friday, December 13, in New York City at the Cinema Village and in L.A. at the Sundance Sunset Cinemas, after which it opens in four more cities over the next few weeks. You can see all currently scheduled playdates by clicking here. Note, too, that the film will simultaneously be available on VOD and iTunes, so folk all around the U.S. can take a look and shiver accordingly.

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