October 2, 2023

Devil Lives Here, The (2016)

Directed by Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio

Starring Pedro Carvalho, Ivo Muller, Sidney Santiago, Clara Verdier

The Devil Lies Here (2016)The Devil Lives Here is the kind of movie that’ll make modern horror directors jealous.

Sounds like a hot and steaming load of hype, right? Granted, it’s a pretty big claim, but it’s one I’m willing to bet the farm on. The deck is loaded against this indie gem—the language is Portuguese with English subtitles; the directors, Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio, have no mainstream fan base; it’s a direct-to-DVD movie no one’s heard of and most people wouldn’t give the time of day to. But none of this matters. This is a movie that rocks your socks off and leaves you smiling like a dope.

Based on Brazilian folklore, The Devil Lives Here spans over a century and focuses on an old honey farm, where a sadistic slave owner known as the Honey Baron controlled his workers by impregnating their matriarch, who was the mother of his favorite slave, Beto. After an uprising in which the Honey Baron kills all his slaves, including Beto, their Matriarch puts a curse on the Honey Baron by nailing their baby to the basement floor of the plantation house.

According to local legend, the Honey Baron is kept in damnation by guardians who visit the house annually and perform a spiritual ritual to reinstate the curse. This year the task falls on young Luciano and his devout brother Sebastio.

A teen named Apolo, who grew up hearing this legend, invites three of his friends to the farm house on a night when no one is supposed to be there, and though he quickly reveals he brought them there to spook them, ulterior motives come into play when the guardians arrive and Hell breaks loose along with the Honey Baron.

One of my favorite things about this movie, and what really prevents it from devolving into a pretentious take on The Evil Dead, is the masterful slow-burn pacing. This may annoy horror fans who love quick and gritty slash-and-stab-a-thons, but patience is rewarded tenfold once the mythology is laid out via these “down” moments, and by the time the Good-versus-Evil bloodbath starts, we’re not only aware of what’s at stake, but also privy to intimate details between characters. We know one of the women is taking medication to prevent hallucinations, and that she’s recently been through some terrible, undisclosed trauma; we also know Luciano isn’t fully committed to his duty, primarily because he grew up with Apolo and is scared to take his life when circumstance demands it. These problems come to a head near the middle of the second act, and by that point we begin to realize there is no “good” or “evil” amongst these core characters—they’re all mere playthings of legendary foes who have no empathy nor mercy toward human foibles.

For as little gore as there is, the tension throughout the movie rivals recent movies like Don’t Breathe, and the makeup effects are absolutely gorgeous. While the ending isn’t what I was hoping for, leaning a bit heavily toward Lovecraftian extremities, I was nonetheless satisfied by how the character arcs of the mortals factored in to the mythology told in the first act.

Rest assured, this isn’t your typical “cabin in the woods” or “urban legend” type of movie. There’s true depth here, and I think you’ll be surprised how this movie tickles the horror hound within you.

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