Written and Directed by: AdriŠn GarcŪa Bogliano
Starring: Laura Caro, Francisco Barreiro, and Michele Garcia
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
"It was the devil."
Having helmed 11 movies during the past decade, itís fair to say that Adrian Garcia Bogliano is one of the most prolific directors in this or any other genre. Clearly, he has the ambition and the means to crank out a wide array of unsettling ideas, from cults invading an apartment building to re-imagining The Wages of Fear in another apartment complex (never rent property in Argentina is what heís saying). His fertile filmography feels like a prelude to Here Comes the Devil, a film thatís stuffed with enough plot developments for at least three scripts; I imagine many filmmakers would love to stumble upon one of them, and Bogliano essentially uses them to screw with his audience. It almost seems unfair.
Here Comes the Devil opens in the throes of sex (a place it wallows in early and often), with two women enjoying each otherís company until a machete-wielding maniac interrupts. After some frenzied bloodletting, the scene shifts to the ominous outskirts of Tijuana, where Felix (Francisco Barreiro) and Sol (Laura Caro) are vacationing with their children. While stopping at a gas station on the way home, they get frisky in the car and lose sight of the kids when they wander off to explore a nearby cave. When the two donít return, the two are despondent, and their already tenuous marriage becomes even more unstable. Only the mysterious return of the children the next day stabilizes the situationóat least until Sol begins to suspect these might not be their children after all.
And thatís just the set-up. By this point, Here Comes the Devil has already shifted from a lurid sex-and-slash movie (shades of De Palma and any number of psychosexual thrillers) to a more brooding, unsettling drama in the vein of The Vanishing (a close-up on a coffee dispenser in the gas station is a wink) and Donít Look Now (ditto the red coat worn by the daughter). The whiplash feels like someone mixed up the reels for two different films, as it only finds a stable footing in Boglianoís replication of 70s Eurohorror, particularly its shaggy energy and disorienting cinematography (there are enough zooms to even give Mario Bava pause). Bogliano might be quick to shift gears, but heís slow to reveal much of anything, save for his influences.
When Here Comes the Devil continues to feel like a buffet line with the addition of even more ingredients (implied incest, child molesters, revenge killings, haunted landscapes, urban legends, possession), you wonder if itís all going anywhere or if Bogilano is just tossing chunks against the wall to see what sticks. Somewhat remarkably, itís the former, and while Boglianoís explanation is a familiar refrain (ďthe devil made me do it!Ē), itís slyly delivered. The filmís title provides an obvious hint to assist its laconic exposition to paint a tableau suggesting that the devil would look to unleash a controlled chaos. You donít see him resting on the charactersí shoulders or whispering into his ears, but his sinister presence is felt in every frame on the film, whether itís in the overtly supernatural or the charactersí destructive decisions.
If the devil were real, I imagine this is how he would operate: by lurking in the background and relying on the power of suggestion. Actual evil pulses through Here Comes the Devil: in the dead-eyed children that return to Felix and Sol, in the extreme measures these parents take to protect their children, and in the even more extreme measures Sol takes when she must protect herself. Perversion of innocence and the destructiveness of sexótwo of the devilís favorite hobbiesórecur throughout as well. The daughterís disappearance (into an obvious vaginal cave) coincides with her first period, while her parentsí roadside tryst is laden with dirty talk about their own early sexual experiences. A maniac threatens to hack the two lesbians to death after sex, thus confirming Satan conforms to slasher movie standards (though one can argue that the genreís tendency to punish sex is some puritanical, hellfire-and-brimstone shit in the first place).
Itís appropriate, then, that the rocky, arid wastelands looming in the distance is something of an anti-Eden, or, at the very least, the Garden by way of the Twilight Zone. From here, the devil operates and manipulates, spreading his influence and seemingly punishing women specifically. Every woman in the story is subjected to some sense of sexual shaming, with the daughterís period essentially functioning as the inciting incident. Eveís curse is literalized into a destructive burden that consumes everyone in the film. It feels a little unseemly and narrow-minded that the women here are indirectly responsible for Satanís presence, but I wonder if that isnít the point. In some ways, Here Comes the Devil confrontational in its insinuation that men canít confront female sexuality without lashing outóSatan included, apparently.
Once Sol becomes the filmís anchor, itís clear the film sympathizes with her. After his roundabout tour through various genres and subplots, Bogliano comes round to vaguely exploring institutionalized misogyny. While he doesnít fully flesh these musings out and sometimes undercuts them with an over-reliance on the male gaze, he and Caro (making a remarkable feature film debut) paint a compelling figure in Sol, who is left to bear the burden of motherhood alone as her husband acquits himself to be quite the unfeeling dipshit. Her struggle leads heróand her familyóto dark places; she must face figurative and literal abysses that continually spit her back out as a twisted shade of herself. For all its scattershot aim, Here Comes the Devil eventually focuses on familiar territory: the gradual, heartbreaking collapse of a woman meeting an evil that overwhelms her. Maybe itís time we start wondering why the devil's hoofprints have settled into this path so often. Rent it!
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