Fantastic Fest 2012: ‘Here Comes the Devil’, erotic, violent and mysterious

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Here Comes the Devil

Directed Adrián García Bogliano

Screenplay by Adrián García Bogliano

2012, Mexico

Argentinian filmmaker Adrián García Bogliano returns with Here Comes the Devil, a coming of age tale of demonic possession, sexual awakening and suspected child abuse. Staying clear of the typical traps of exploitation, Bogliano takes a low-key, less graphic approach to the unearthly proceedings. This isn’t your standard possession film. That’s not to say there aren’t displays of the supernatural, but those hoping for frightening exorcisms may be disappointed (although you will get scenes of levitation, albeit low cost effects).

Here Comes the Devil has an admittedly great premise and the haunting mystery and buried sexual hysteria is the films selling point. Bogliano treats the sexuality of his characters with an honest reality striking a perfect balance between family drama and domestic horror. Set in Tijuana – home to superstition and stories about el diablo – a young couple and their son and daughter stop at a roadside gas station across from desolate hills and mysterious caves. Despite warning, the children set out to explore the forbidden grounds, said to be harbouring dark secrets, and get lost in their newfound playground. The following day, they return to their distraught parents, and while physically unharmed, something just doesn’t quite seem the same.

In what seems like an homage to Peter Weir’s masterpiece Picnic at Hanging Rock, Devil is an ominously atmospheric package that recalls the best of genre stylings from decades past – particularly those from directors Nicolas Roeg and Ken Russell. Sex and death and the tight bond between the two are at the bleeding center of the film. Devil is erotic, violent and mysterious.

Unfortunately the movie appears to have been shot on cheap video and regular cinematographer Ernesto Herrera doesn’t help with his distracting, unnecessary, overused dramatic zooms and extreme close-ups. There’s potential here for something more defined had it been given a bigger budget or a little more care. The explicit homage to late ’70s genre cinema is always welcome, but it seems to have been developed in somewhat of a hurry. Some of it works, particularly the split-focus shots, piercing sound effects and the psych-rock score by composer Julio Pillado. A film however should be taken on the merit of what it is trying to achieve, and not judged solely on production values alone, and Devil does get by on its direction and superb cast which includes Mexican superstar Francisco Barreiro (We Are What We Are) and singer Laura Caro (in her feature film debut). Barreiro and Caro bring a sense of urgency and tension to their roles and their fears seem heartfelt and tangible. Caro playing the obsessed mother going mad is the pics strongest point, and her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Here Comes the Devil manages to be a haunting meditation on fear, sex, death and the beyond. Ambiguity is often good and Devil leaves us with many unanswered questions. Amidst the confusion and unsettling atmosphere, the result is a discreetly artistic genre pic.

 

– Ricky D

Fantastic Fest runs September 20th – 27th.