Adrián García Bogliano’s supernatural thriller Here Comes The Devil doesn’t skimp on the psychosexual underpinnings of its story. After beginning with a vigorous lesbian sex scene—interrupted when a maniac bursts in and chops off one of the women’s fingers—the plot really kicks in when a husband and wife and their two preteen children have their family outing derailed by the daughter getting her first period. Later that same day, the kids are exploring a vaginal-looking cave while their folks hang back in the car and start recounting their earliest sexual experiences to each other during a hot make-out session. Ten minutes into the film, Bogliano has established a cruel syllogism, suggesting that growing up leads to sex, and that sex leads to all sorts of horrors.
In the case of these parents, Felix and Sol (played by Francisco Barreiro and Laura Cano), their indulgence in some sweet afternoon delight turns sour when their daughter Sara (Michele Garcia) and son Adolfo (Alan Martinez) don’t immediately come back from the cave, and are reported as missing. Their marriage was already starting to sputter, but after literally losing their kids, Felix and Sol’s minor irritations blossom into a full-on disgust with each other, which doesn’t completely subside when, out of the blue, one day later, Sara and Adolfo return. That’s because the children still don’t really seem like themselves when they come back. They’re more distant, and prone to sudden freak-outs. Also, the family’s home is plagued by mysterious sounds in the middle of the night.
Bogliano—an Argentine filmmaker whose previous films The Accursed, Cold Sweat, and Penumbra have impressed horror fans on the international festival circuit—is skilled at constructing eerie sequences that balance the implicit and the explicit. Here Comes The Devil is spattered with blood, and features liberal amounts of nudity, embracing the spirit of 1970s exploitation cinema. But Bogliano gets just as much juice from the scenes where people spill old secrets to each other while Julio Pillado’s electronic soundtrack pulses and scrapes, ominously. Where Here Comes The Devil stumbles is in fitting all of its shocking and portentous moments together. There’s very little build to the film, and very little sense of revelation as Felix and Sol get closer to finding out what happened to Sara and Adolfo (and why). Instead, Bogliano provides a steady series of jolts, all the way to an ending that’s twisty but ultimately unsatisfying.
Then again, the reason the ending is a letdown is because it seems carelessly surprising, and more removed from the theme of the film than the opening. Here Comes The Devil, at its root, is a film about parental anxiety. Felix and Sol are watching their children mature before their eyes, knowing that soon they’ll be cut loose into a hazardous world full of predators and malevolence—and that when that happens, whatever’s keeping this family together will likely lose its hold. Here Comes The Devil is at its best when it’s at its least literal: when Bogliano confronts the inevitability of personal loss, whether it’s as a result of demonic possession or not.