Within the 97-minute runtime of Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s film are 10 minutes of an excellent horror movie.
Buried somewhere within the 97-minute runtime of Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s 2012 film Here Comes the Devil are 10 minutes of an excellent horror movie. The problem with the other 87 minutes is not that they are badly made. “Bad” could possibly have been a good thing, considering the campy glory of what Here Comes the Devil gets right. The problem is that the majority of the film is boring and offers no payoff for forcing that boredom on the audience, the ultimate kiss of death for a fright flick.
Here Comes the Devil begins with an awesome, crazy scene that involves graphic lesbian sex interrupted by a machete-wielding, finger-stealing psychopath, and it would have been wonderful to see the film continue in that vein. Instead, writer-director Bogliano takes a more naturalistic approach, trying to build tension with long silences and forlorn scenery as the story follows two children, Adolfo and Sara, who vanish while on vacation with their parents, Felix and Sol. The kids are found the next morning and reveal that they spent the night in a cave. As the youngsters slowly begin to act weirder and weirder, Sol begins to question what really happened to her children while they were missing. Though the premise sounds creepy enough, the slow pacing and the dour performances make it hard to care about what happened to the children.
This boredom seems to be a symptom of indecision on Bogliano’s part. The overall tone is the hyper-realistic style so popular now because of the Paranormal Activity franchise, but the film is then dotted with giallo-style flourishes of bright gore and wild rock music, which makes each subsequent return to slow-pacing and beige scenery all the more disappointing.
These flourishes are obviously inspired by Italian horror masters like Dario Argento and Mario Bava, and they are what make up those excellent 10 minutes hidden inside Here Comes the Devil. There is the aforementioned scene of the machete-wielding finger thief. Another, involving a naked babysitter, implied-incest and psychedelic hallucinations, plays out like the lovechild of Rosemary’s Baby’s devil encounter and The Ring’s deadly tape. A sudden, shocking murder involves the victim having his throat slit and his windpipe pulled out for good measure. And a late scene involving an Evil Dead-style face switch is genuinely frightening.
In addition to these brief moments of brilliance, Here Comes the Devil is also admirable for how fearless it is. It touches on some genuinely taboo topics and, though often unsuccessful, plays them for horror rather than sensationalism. In fact, Bogliano could have afforded to make things a bit more sensational, if only because Here Comes the Devil falls so flat when it is trying to be serious.
Ultimately, Here Comes the Devil is hard to recommend, as the good parts actually hurt the overall film. The film’s few vivid scenes are detrimental because they remind viewers that they could and deserve to be watching something better. They do, however, also signal that Bogliano is a filmmaker to watch, if he can just make up his mind about what kind of movie he wants to make.