Peruvian horror film Face of the Devil (La Cara del Diablo; 2014) combines the beats of a slasher film with supernatural goings-on. The result is a fun, eerie watch bolstered by solid characterization.
In a familiar set-up, seven college-age friends, including two couples, go on a weekend vacation to a remote area. After some topless swimming in a nearby body of water, the group returns to their lodging swimming pool where campfire tales begin to be told. Legend has it that the Tunche, a diabolical creature with a shrill whistle that means imminent death to those who hear it, claimed victims in the surrounding rainforest. The creepy innkeeper warns the group that the Tunche is real, but the youngsters remain skeptical — until, that is, supernatural occurrences do indeed take place and claim lives.
Director Frank Pérez-Garland’s film obviously treads conventional territory, but it does so with some interesting takes. Flashbacks of one of the characters shows either demonic possession or mental illness in her family’s past, setting up an intriguing angle. Also, the group of good-looking travelers are not the usual obnoxious stereotypes often seen in similar films; rather, they are given overall rather pleasing personalities and are generally sympathetic toward each other and any of their friends’ shortcomings. This makes for stronger viewer investment in their denouements rather than them being irritating characters who you can’t wait to be knocked off.
Pérez-Garland, working from a screenplay by Vanessa Saba (who also appears as a possessed parent), paces Face of the Devil well, building drama and suspense in an increasingly eldritch atmosphere with mystery elements that move toward a gruesome reveal. The ensemble cast members, which include Vania Accinelli in a fine performance as main character Lucero, all turn in admirable work. Roberto Maceda Kohatsu’s cinematography captures the beautiful Peruvian landscape and the devilish kills equally well.
South America is producing some terrific horror films lately, and though Face of the Devil took several years to arrive in the States, it is a well-made entry that is definitely worth seeking out.
Face of the Devil, from Danse Macabre, is now available on DVD and digital platforms.(3.5 / 5)