When it comes to independent genre fare, Artsploitation Films is a company with a great track record. While not every effort has been a home run, you can at least admire most for striving to be somewhat original, or for at least for shining a light on cinema from countries rarely associated with having a film industry. Just recently, they unleashed Romania’s first found footage film with the impressive Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, for instance, and in the past, they’ve traversed Europe to unearth some unknown, terrifying gems. However, for their latest release, The Devil Lives Here, they’ve taken us to the warmer terrains of South America — Brazil to be exact — for an occult thriller steeped in urban legend.
The story revolves around a group of teenagers — Alexandra (Mariana Cortines), Maria (Clara Verdier) and Jorge (Diego Goullart) – who go on a weekend retreat to visit their friend Apolo (Pedro Carvalho) at his farm. But they pick the wrong time to visit as it just so happens to coincide with a generation-spanning ritual the family must carry out every nine months. Unwittingly, the gang find themselves trying to prevent evil from being born and it’s not the weekend of partying they imagined it would be.
Directed by ABC’s of Death 2.5 contributors Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio, The Devil Lives Here is based on the fictional Honey Baron folk tale, in which a vicious plantation owner sexually abused his female slaves until they revolted against him. This tale is what inspires the ritual which takes place in the film, and for a backstory, it’s quite fascinating and unsettling. It’s also tensely gripping for awhile… and then it falls by the wayside.
There comes a point in The Devil Lives Here where it becomes too confusing for its own good; all the momentum it builds prior is derailed completely as the plot gets lost and confusion takes over, and not necessarily in the good way where you’ll want to rewatch it immediately to try and decipher its meaning. This is not to say the film is unwatchable, but to see it fall apart when it was on the cusp of potentially achieving greatness will be a tad frustrating for many viewers.
That said, the film’s mood and atmosphere does make it quite an effective chiller, and if you believe in the power of voodoo – or just find the idea of it quite creepy – then The Devil Lives Here will get under your skin. Additionally, from a technical standpoint it’s very impressive and the performances are more than satisfying; if the plot didn’t descend into nonsensical incoherence it could have been quite special.
Overall though, I recommend The Devil Lives Here. It is an ambitious misfire that gets more right than it does wrong. In terms of raw, visceral horror, it hits the mark on more than one occasion; more in the sense that it creeps its way up on you as opposed to making you shake in your boots throughout. The Brazilian horror throne still belongs to Coffin Joe and the best example of the country’s cinematic output remains City of God (2002). But, with entries like The Devil Lives Here, Brazil is certainly a nation worth keeping an eye on. These filmmakers have their hearts in the right place, displaying the potential to create something truly magnificent if the script were to afford them that opportunity.
The Devil Lives Here (3 / 5)