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Why I took them off the list: As is now tradition, I had to attend my favorite film festival, and put out at least one Sitges Review in the run-up to Halloween.
This year I only managed to catch a couple of the many movies I would have loved to check out, but I was pretty satisfied with the ones I ended up seeing. And they made for a great double feature.
Like always, the surprising and splattery elements of both of these films received a rapturous response from the audience, an experience that makes a trip to Sitges worth it in itself.
So, without further ado, let’s dig in!
When Evil Lurks IMDB description:” In a remote village, two brothers find a demon-infected man just about to give birth to evil itself. They decide to get rid of the man but merely succeed in spreading the chaos.”
Infested IMDB description:: “Residents of a rundown French apartment building battle against an army of deadly, rapidly reproducing spiders.”
Review of When Evil Lurks [Cuando acecha la maldad]
This deeply atmospheric horror from Argentina does something rare in modern horror, or really any genre: it crafts a fully realized alternate world and mythology that it slowly drops you into and fleshes out.
This requires the characters to dole out quite a lot of exposition, and so they do. But the fact it’s told through the eyes of characters who have little experience in something that is seemingly ubiquitous in this world feels fresh and immersive.
The story starts with two farmworker brothers hearing mysterious gunshots in the night and setting out to investigate. From this humble start, the film quickly spirals into a nightmare of supernatural horror and demonic possession that approaches the subject in a unique and visceral way that puts the recent Exorcist reboot to shame.
Realistic Characters and Shocking Set Pieces
Although it starts as the tale of 2 brothers, the film eventually loses interest in one of them and shifts focus to the other. This is a bit of a shame because the one we spent the most time with turns out to be the more hysterical and rash of the two. He makes questionable decisions left and right that will practically have you screaming at the screen.
Still, like Infested, this film boasts some well-drawn and believable characters who are not always likable, but they’re definitely convincing. The stand-outs are a sweet old grandmother who has the habit of saying unnerving things at the wrong time, and a battle-hardened exorcist lady who has seen too much of this s**t.
Also, gore hounds will be in heaven. The make-up and splatter effects are top-notch and will stick with even the most desensitized horror viewer, from an oozing semi-corpse to the gruesome death of a farm animal and the shocking unintended consequences.
One thing that has to be mentioned is that the director maybe, kinda hates children…as there are several quite vicious and graphic acts perpetrated against them. This greatly adds to the overall (high) shock factor for sure, but also to the queasiness: sensitive souls be warned!
Final score: 7/10
When Evil Lurks: Worth Watching?
Yes, if you’re a fan of bloody, atmospheric horror, then you’ll love When Evil Lurks. There’s plenty of gore and shocks, but perhaps most impressive is the crafty way it unfurls the reality of the world and the predicament the characters find themselves in.
When Evil Lurks [Cuando acecha la maldad] (2023)
Written and directed by Demián Rugna
Review of Infested [Vermines]
Aside from its social drama ambitions and obvious metaphors, this French horror about a tower block infested with deadly spiders is just a big old B-movie creature feature at its heart.
It bears more than a passing resemblance in plot to Eight Legged Freaks (2002), but with the situation taken way more seriously and the characters spewing more angst and outright anger than quips. Also, the spiders are much smaller (and apparently real).
The set-up is pretty basic: an insect-loving young wheeler-dealer accidentally brings a shoebox full of particularly nasty spiders into his crumbling apartment building. They quickly reproduce, causing widespread chaos inside as the place is quarantined, and the protagonists soon have to fight their way out.
There are some tense set pieces when the creepy crawlies eventually come out, including one involving a shower cubicle. Another nail-biting sequence involves the characters racing down a web-filled corridor toward an exit before a timer-fitted light runs down.
Good Acting and Scary Spiders
Infected’s spider attack scenes are effective and, punctuated by intense screeching strings, provide some real jolts. And there is some impressively creative camera work and editing that really ramps up the tension beforehand.
What sets Infected apart from the many others in the insect-attack genre is the commendable realism it attempts to apply to the situation. But it’s only partially successful in this effort.
Although the first act smartly takes some time to develop the lead characters, the film takes its time in unleashing its central threat and getting to the meat of the premise. And the attempts at social commentary ultimately feel a bit undercooked.
What it does do right is craft realistic characters that you actually fear for. Although not always likable, the central protagonists are well-acted and their reactions to the predicament feel believable.
Final score: 6/10
Infested: Worth Watching?
Depends on your mood. Infected takes itself too seriously, but if you’re in the mood for the fun B-movie side of the film, it’s still a good bet. The characters are strong, and the attack scenes are vivid and quite scary.
Directed by Sébastien Vanicek
Written by Florent Bernard, Sébastien Vanicek