Although it eventually becomes too convoluted for its own good, Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s sexually charged parental nightmare Here Comes the Devil is certainly an effective little shocker. It firmly established Bogliano as a real “student of the game,” unafraid to meld different filmmaking styles or to wear his personal influences on his sleeve. It’s just a shame that the promise of the film’s first half starts to get lost as it goes along, thankfully stopping just shy of the point where the wheels would start to come off.
Felix and Sol (Francisco Barreiro and Laura Caro) are an unhappily married Mexican couple on vacation just outside of Baja with their son and daughter. They’re so unhappy that they can only seem to get off when thinking of their sexual encounters with people they had before they were together. One afternoon while they are hooking up in their car, the kids wander off into the mountains and into a mysterious cave and go missing. Returning home the next day, the couple is relieved to have their kids back, but something clearly nasty happened to them and they don’t seem like the same people. Felix and Sol look to stake out a creepy potential pedophile for answers and justice, but what really happened to those kids might have a much more supernatural explanation than either parent can comprehend.
While his narrative certainly isn’t as sound as his filmmaking abilities, Bogliano (The Accursed, Cold Sweat) directs the heck out of his material here. It’s actually a huge leap for the Spanish filmmaker in terms of utilizing every trick in his arsenal. Out of the gate, Here Comes the Devil looks and moves like an old school Wes Craven film in the style of Last House on the Left and The Hills Have Eyes. It’s menacing, a little sexy, a little sleazy, and spellbinding. He shares John Carpenters love of almost ethereal sounding music, but minus a lot of synths. He shares both classic horror directors love for zooms and unsubtle subtext. His story seems to take a lot of cues from early era Stephen King. He has Dario Argento’s ability to beautifully integrate sexuality into a horror story, and he has Lucio Fulci’s ability to never shy away from getting as nasty or graphic as possible in service of his story.
He also unfortunately seems to have taken Fulci and Lamberto Bava’s annoying knack of crafting initially intriguing premises that devolve into either chaos or incoherency. What starts off as something akin to a high end 70s exploitation knock off that actually has something interesting to say about a potentially abusive marriage having a negative impact on the puberty and maturation of their kids, quickly becomes about three or four different movies of different tones. It all comes together with an admittedly decent ending, but it’s hard to tell just what the audience should be frightened by, grossed out by, or what they should actually be putting a great amount of thought into.
It all starts to unravel when the kids are returned early on, in hindsight. Watching Felix and Sol going on a search for answers when they discover that their kids were clearly abused physically and possibly sexually holds some classic vigilante thrills, as does their interactions with a hard to pin down detective, but it runs aground of the material’s supernatural elements. Once it has been established that there’s something otherworldly going on, the film splits into two parts once again, with Felix getting less and less to do and Sol slowly losing her mind while trying to figure out what’s wrong with the kids. If the film hadn’t already established and hinted at a more interesting familial relationship early on, this might have been excusable, but since the vigilante stuff peters out way too early and isn’t even integrated that much into the rest of the film, it kind of sucks a lot of the vitality out of the picture.
Despite all of that, Bogliano is certainly directing the heck out of this one, and the film is almost worth it for the style being employed alone. It raises the bar for someone who has been toiling in cult filmmaking for a while now and suggests a leap to the mainstream is imminent. If he can work on the story telling a little bit more, he can quickly become an even bigger force to be reckoned with in the horror community.