When Evil Lurks TIFF review

When Evil Lurks uses gore and shock to force the audience into submission

3.5 stars out of 5

Watching Demián Rugna’s Terrified with a packed Fantasia audience ranks as one of the best experiences of my cinematic life. It’s an unusually haunting ghost story with some of the best scares in modern memory — at one particular moment, the audience was pushed to the brink and screams filled the room. His latest film, When Evil Lurks, explores a much different kind of horror as the paranormal is traded in for pure evil. What remains consistent, though, is Rugna’s ability to shock an audience into submission.

In a remote village in Argentina, two brothers find a demon-infected man. Scared and unsure what to do, they try to transport his body out of town, only to unleash a terrible evil onto the village. It’s not long before the audience realizes that When Evil Lurks holds nothing sacred. Horror taboos rarely transgressed are dealt with in horrific brazenness. The voice of evil, which possesses dogs and children, shows no mercy to the most vulnerable members of society. 

If Terrified was a film that built tremendous suspense, When Evil Lurks uses gore and shock to force the audience into submission. It’s a film about personal responsibility and the myriad ways humanity is deluded into believing we are above or somehow outside of the brutality of the natural world. Not since The Sadness has a horror film been willing to test the audience to such extremes. Whether the whole thing comes together is yet to be decided, and undoubtedly, the movie will ruffle some feathers. Still, it’s undeniable: Rugna is an absolute master of horror, dread and shock — one of the greatest newish voices in horror that we’ve seen in a long time. ■

When Evil Lurks (directed by Demián Rugna)

When Evil Lurks is streaming now in Canada on Shudder.

This review was originally published as part of a TIFF 2023 roundup.

For our latest in film and TV, please visit the Film & TV section.