An underwhelming tale of two children who go missing on a mountain apparently believed cursed by demonic forces. The children mysteriously return, now acting strangely, prompting their parents to pursue answers that lead to even more troubles. It’s a predictable exercise in tedium, where its low-budget nature and aesthetic doesn’t pay off.
Here Comes the Devil is, in a word, drab. In more words, it contains untapped potential, stilted tropes, and far too many zooms. A few zooms are good pulpy fun, numerous zooms, however, is just bad form. Much of the cinematography is conventional and unimaginative, even by efficient low-budget standards. The one moment when the camerawork, editing and sound design somewhat shine comes in the film’s third quarter with a flashback sequence of a friend’s nightmarish experience. Some decent work in that sequence, where layered frames and transitions combined with effective sound touches give some much-needed atmosphere and edge to an otherwise lifelessly unfrightening tale.
Bogliano’s script is thin on explanation and motive, while heavy on disconnected elements and loose strands, with blandly undeveloped characters and mediocre dialog. The prologue is too long, and isn’t sufficiently connected to the main story-line. Later sequences, such as the many returns to the mountain, are too long for what they offer, becoming unnecessarily repetitive. The parents (Francisco Barreiro & Laura Caro) are largely unlikeable and uninteresting, with the kids (Alan Martinez & Michele Garcia) never developed or endearing either. Thus, there’s little dramatic tension or emotional investment in anyone’s plight. Even unlikeable characters can be interesting and multifaceted. This offers neither.
Consequently, what we’re given doesn’t justify the film’s 90 min length. Horror films often excel from concision. Naturally there are exceptions, but as a rule, tighten things up as much as you can. Horror of Here Comes the Devil‘s variety needs efficiency. Establish simple and strategic elements of character, world, and problem that will drive themselves (e.g. Rec, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Green Room, The Hills Have Eyes). The nature of the genre often forces characters to be a bit thin, and yet an audience will still care when characters have clear personality and motives proportional to the established boundaries of the film. Likewise, the Big Bad in these films often functions according to pretty straight-forward principles, which doesn’t mean motives or origin are clear, but the Big Evil’s actions must adhere to the logic of the world and make a clear sense, even while the source and scope remains elusive. The trick is to find the sweet spot where simplicity doesn’t lapse into underdeveloped evasion and/or vagueness. It’s a peculiar process of proportion, which, in this case, eludes Bogliano. A more justifiable length would be 75 minutes, or even less. If Val Lewton can blow our minds in under 70 minutes, then 90 minutes or more should bring something pretty important to the table (e.g. The Ring, The Wailing, Pulse, The Descent). I tried to hang on, but by the halfway mark I was impatient, and the ending (what a let down) couldn’t (and didn’t) come soon enough.
Director: Adrián García Bogliano