The phrase “Well, that escalated quickly” came to mind a couple times during Here Comes the Devil. This Mexican-made chiller isn’t afraid to immediately show what a nasty piece of work it is, assuring from the outset that the “killer kids” premise one might assume from all the poster art is but a falsehood. Given my distaste for the cheap thrills this subgenre so often descends to, not having the slightest clue where writer/director Adrian Garcia Bogliano was taking me was a big relief. But soon after snugly wrapping you up in its blanket of WTF-ery, Here Comes the Devil goes from leaving you not knowing which way is up to being depressingly conventional in how it all comes together. I hate having my overall judgment of a film depend so strongly on its ending, but when something like this starts off so weird and leaves you saying, “So…?” when it’s all over, something went wrong.
Our story begins, as many odysseys into horror are wont to do, with a family outing gone awry. Felix (Francisco Barreiro) and Sol (Laura Caro) decide to stop at a gas station for some private playtime, while their kids Adolfo (Alan Martinez) and Sara (Michele Garcia) check out a nearby hill. But nightfall comes, and the children have yet to come back, sending the young parents into an instant panic. Thankfully, Adolfo and Sara return in the morning, although they don’t seem the same as before. Acting more withdrawn from their folks while growing disturbingly closer to one another, the kids’ behavior perplexes Felix and Sol, who chalk it up to simple trauma. However, there’s another explanation for why the siblings are acting so differently, one that involves a local legend about the hills they were stranded in…and an inhuman force said to be constantly hunting for new vessels to spread its evil through.
Here Comes the Devil is stuck at a midway point between sleazy grindhouse exploitation and a classy psychological thriller. Bogliano (who gave us the “B Is for Bigfoot” chapter of The ABCs of Death) switches back and forth from family melodrama to displays of graphic violence that, for as much cinematic blood as I’ve seen spilled in my lifetime, had me cringing. His intention is to keep viewers on their toes no matter what tone is at work, and for the first two acts at least, he pulls it off. There’s tension between Felix and Sol from the very start (with the latter blasting the former’s lack of concern for his own kin), and the more distant the kids become as the film progresses, the more desperate they become to repair the damage. Of course, doing so has the two playing right into the hands of a supernatural force that I daren’t reveal, but suffice it to say that the pair takes rather extreme measures in protecting their children. That Barreiro and Caro make for a convincing couple is a big help, and being delivered in intermittent, situationally-odd doses enables the bloodshed to provoke a gut-churning reaction every time.
But for a movie that gives us lesbian sex, finger-chopping, and ground-humping as an appetizer, Here Comes the Devil culminates in an unfulfilling main course. All its unsettling sights can only distract us for so long from the fact that the story’s tires rarely stop spinning in place, making an awful lot of racket but not getting anywhere. Bogliano keeps us in the dark for too long, and it’s just a short amount of time before the final credits roll that he steers the mystery surrounding the kids towards any sort of payoff. But by then, it’s too late, with Here Comes the Devil leaving a sour taste in our mouths as it bids viewers adieu with one cop-out of a conclusion. It’s alright for a movie to leave the audience hanging and not answer every question that it poses, so long as it made watching it worth our while in other areas. Looking back on Here Comes the Devil after its disappointing denouement, I can’t help but think that in spite of the solid acting and depraved goings-on we were made privy to, the amount of busywork it made for itself was impenetrable. It doesn’t bring you much closer to the characters beyond a surface level, the mythology it tries to build isn’t fascinating, and even the gratuitous nature of the outlandish violence that held on to your attention becomes irksome in retrospect.
It’s unfortunate that I admire Here Comes the Devil for what it didn’t do more than for the film it is. Bogliano has my eternal gratitude for resisting the temptation to embed his screenplay with cackling demon brats, opting to try bridging the gap between the more subtle and grisly aspects of horror instead. But alas, Here Comes the Devil mostly stalls for time, a hair’s breadth from The Devil Inside in terms of the “reward” the audience gets for making it through to the end.
Here Comes the Devil (2012) is available on DVD (Region 2) from Amazon.co.uk; and if you decide to make a purchase after following this link you will have supported Attack From Planet B, so thank you!