New Release Review (DVD/VOD) - THE DEVIL LIVES HERE

A trip to a farmhouse leads to a weekend of terror for a group of young friends.






Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Rodrigo Gasparini, Dante Vescio

Starring: Pedro Caetano, Pedro Carvalho, Mariana Cortines, Felipe Frazao


Perhaps the experience of watching The Devil Lives Here, Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio’s Brazilian horror, is akin to discovering a beehive in the wild: stumbling upon a rough looking structure whose unassuming edges are nonetheless filled with thick, rich goodness. Be careful though, because there are also a few deadly stings waiting inside...

Opening with sounds of deep breathing and heart beats set to inserts of mud, heat and the red hexagon interiors of honeycomb, this low budget horror film’s title sequence (the first of The Devil Lives Here’s many pleasures is this early attempt to resurrect the lost art of the artisan title sequence) brings to mind the weird, aphid fixated stylings of Saul Bass’s obscurity Phase IV. But then, within seconds of this avant-garde montage, the narrative cuts straight to a young woman with nice teeth and even nicer hair (Alex, played by Mariana Cortines) breaking away from the rest of her pals, who are road tripping through the countryside, to yank down her yoga pants and have a piss in a field.



From the sacred to the profane in a couple of edits, the energetic pace and unpredictable tone of The Devil Lives Here is set. And the momentum is sustained as we zip from the past, where a racist white apiarist abuses his black workforce, back to the present where a couple of mysterious brothers philosophise on the nature of the hive, and back again to our familiar horror set up of good looking kids in a bad looking house in the country.

There’s so much going on in this film, and the scenes buzz by with such diverse oomph, that it’s like watching one of those ABCs of Death portmanteau films, except, you know, good; as gluing the disparate narrative cells together here is the viscous honey of The Devil Lives Here’s photography, which juxtaposes the poetic, bucolic setting of the countryside with shots of striking significance (such as the beehives burning, and the eventually possessed Alex emerging from a trapdoor with crimson eyes), creating a minor folk horror gem in the process.



When the brutal bee keeper, the Honey Baron (Felipe Frazão), waxes lyrical about his bumbling charges, ‘bees don’t fight or argue, they work together’, he may well be talking about the harmonic structure of this film, which cross pollinates the present and past in a storyline about resurrecting a cursed baby, who is the bastard offspring of the Baron and a slave woman. Albeit, the film does bask in the shadow of Candyman somewhat, sharing that film’s themes of slavery and urban legends, but, crucially, also replicating that film’s focus of brutal and surprising terror.

Grafting a slasher set up onto an intricate, folkloric backstory, The Devil Lives Here presents old tricks in a fresh way. With the Baron accidentally brought back, familiar slasher tropes are rolled out - the kids who mess with things they don’t understand, the return of the repressed - but these too are delivered with attention to detail. The violence is painful and prolonged, and hurts all the more because these kids are more carefully drawn than the standard horror-teen alumni, and, despite the occasionally variable quality of the acting, seem genuine when the film depicts them as shaking, snotty and clearly scared.



It is, however, a shame that another hoary cliché that bumbles into the film is the horror maxim that certain women, usually those with pixie cuts, are a hair’s breadth away from murderous hysteria - see Switchblade Romance, Rosemary’s Baby, et al. These occasional rough edges are of little consequence, however as The Devil Lives Here is a film that sets its sights high, marshalling its swarm of ideas to create horror nectar of a fresh and distinctive flavour.

The Devil Lives Here is on DVD and VOD now.





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