Here Comes the Devil (Blu-ray / DVD)
Directed by Adrian Garcia Bogliano
Distributed by Magnet
Horror goes through many cycles, arguably more so than any other genre. When a filmmaker latches on to some concept that turns white hot, a film becomes a hit, and in nearly no time at all the market is flooded with imitators. This isn’t always a bad thing. Recently, some horror directors have begun making their films as homages to the great genre films of the 1970s.
Ti West’s House of the Devil (2009) is a perfect example of this done on a small budget, while last year’s The Conjuring (2013) shows how that style is being emulated in productions with a higher profile. Gory horror is, frankly, mostly stale and boring by this point. After the messy days of the new millennium, splatter flicks are being replaced by concepts more psychological in nature. And this is because gore alone isn’t scary. It takes some real talent to craft a yarn that can draw an audience in and scare them without relying on dead horse gags like cats jumping out of a cabinet, or the old faithful “mirror closes, see the killer” bit.
These films aren’t coming exclusively from America, either, thanks to writer/director Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s Here Comes the Devil (2012). The film dominated at the Fantastic Fest 2012 awards, taking home the top prizes in horror. Bogliano’s film is steeped in homage and reverence to the golden age of Hollywood horror from the ‘70s. Your enjoyment, however, depends entirely on how slow-burn you like your horror, because Here Comes the Devil presents a mystery that slowly unfolds before reaching a satisfying, yet still unconventional, conclusion.
The film opens with a pair of beautiful women intensely grinding into each other, deeply embroiled in a hot situation. When there’s a knock at the door, one of the women goes to answer it and shortly thereafter the girl upstairs hears a struggle. She heads down to find a man viciously beating her girlfriend to a pulp before pulling out a machete and cutting her fingers off. She strikes the man with an implement before he runs off into the hills, stripping off his clothes and writhing on the ground, which we see is full of bloody fingers. Cut to main title. Felix (Francisco Barreiro) and his wife, Sol (Laura Caro), are enjoying a hot, sunny day in the sand with their kids – Adolfo (Alan Martinez) and Sara (Michele Garcia) – when playtime is interrupted by Sara’s inaugural crimson river. The family packs up and heads to a local truck stop, where they decide to rest up a bit while the kids do some exploring in a familiar rocky, cavernous hill nearby. Mom and dad have a hot little sexytime before passing out and waking up hours later to find the kids have not returned. The police are called, they get a motel for the night, but the next morning they’re found and returned. Relief soon turns to concern when the children begin displaying weird behavior, and their new psychologist suggests they may have been sexually assaulted.
That’s when Felix and Sol recall seeing a weird, Hispanic Crispin Glover type of guy who had spied on Sol and Sara in the restroom earlier. The parents decide he’s responsible and go to his trailer, tying him up and eventually getting him to confess he stole Sara’s missing period panties. They convict him right then and there, brutally ending his life with extreme prejudice. The next day, the cop that had helped find their kids returns to question them about Lucio (David Arturo Cabezud), the man they killed. It seems he was certainly a total weirdo, but he also felt that hill he lived near was a place full of spirits unclean. Sol thinks the kids are still acting off, so she follows them to school one morning and finds them boarding another bus. A bus taking them back to the hills in which they disappeared. Sol follows them to the mouth of a small cave, where they just stand and stare at… nothing. She returns the next day to investigate on her own, discovering something that shakes her to the core and confirms her worst suspicions – what, exactly, are her children?
To say any more would be to spoil the film. Suffice it to say, Bogliano succeeds in drawing us in with a twisted premise, leaving viewers hanging on each scene hoping to decode the mystery of what’s really happening. Even once we do figure it out, things are intentionally left ambiguous. That’s the beauty of psychological horror – your mind is constantly questioning what it saw and how it fits into the bigger picture the film is presenting. Bogliano hides clues throughout the picture, leaving it up the viewers to piece it all together. Nearly every major film feels the need to spell everything out to audiences – sometimes literally, if they must – but movies on the indie circuit can afford to leave more to the imagination once the credits roll.
Lots of post-production work looks to have been done on the film’s 2.35:1 1080p image. After an opening scene that looks overly grainy and washed out, the film exhibits many de-saturated hues and a muted palette. The only color that seems to stand out much: red. Detail in typically excellent in facial closeups and clothing textures. Much of the film takes place in bright, well-lit locations, allowing the image to show off as much as possible. Black levels are acceptable, though since everything else looks washed out it’s no surprise black levels are on the anemic side. I am quite sure the image appears as the filmmakers intended, however, and for maintaining that consistency in aesthetic this is a fine image. The audio option you want to listen to is the Spanish DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround sound track. There’s an English dubbing available with the same lossless option, but what sort of soulless person wants to hear that? The Spanish track has a robust presence, with a dynamic range that provides an immersive sonic experience. I was a big fan of Julio Pillado’s score, which is an eclectic mix of styles making it difficult to fully categorize. His music takes full advantage of the surround mix, amping up the tension when required. Dialogue and effects play nicely in the mix, never fighting for supremacy. At times the action sounds a bit confined, though not for long stretches. Rears come into play only sporadically; this is mostly a front-driven track.
Magnet is typically good to their Blu-ray buyers, packing their discs with as much extra material as possible. The audio commentary with director Adrian Garcia Bogliano is energetic and full of demystifying information if you want to know more about the film. Bogliano has many influences in cinema and he spends a lot of time pointing out all of the various homages to his idols. He has a real enthusiasm for his work, making this a track worth your time. Extended Nightmare Scene is exactly what it sounds like, expanding upon a horrific vision seen in the film. Behind the Scenes Comparisons is a featurette with footage of the actors blocking out shots on set while a small picture-in-picture window shows how the shots look in the finished film. Rehearsals is a reel of the actors running over their lines. Behind the Scenes Photo Gallery is a series of shots from set, running for over seven minutes. AXS TV: A Look at Here Comes the Devil is an EPK featuring director Bogliano and the cast talking about the film’s plot, some of its meanings; the usual PR type stuff.
If you’ve got patience and an affinity for throwback horror with a slowly unfolding storyline, this should hold some appeal. Bogliano’s film doesn’t build up to something utterly grand, but once the credits roll, I think most horror fans will want to revisit it with the commentary track on to learn the secrets contained within.
3 1/2 out of 5
2 1/2 out of 5