When I spotted Here Comes the Devil (AKA Ahí va el diablo) was showing as part of the Leeds International Film Festival's horror and genre film strand I was more than a little excited. Earlier this year it screened to audiences in Austin's Fantastic Fest and to say that it had done well there is something of an understatement: Here Comes picked up awards for best actor, best actress, best screenplay, best director and best picture in the horror category. There are only two explanations for this: either the other films in competition were hardly strong, or Here Comes is really something quite special.
So of course I had to go and see it.
Some hours later, I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. It's a solid little film, it ticks a lot the boxes you'd expect and a few you might not, but it doesn't really offer much by way of surprises. I definitely came out grinning, but I don't think it made my jaw drop.
The premise is pretty familiar. Some children disappear and then turn up the next day. Only, when they re-appear they're... different. Cold, unemotional, quiet. I don't think I'm spoiling anything if I tell you there's some supernatural/possession stuff going on. Most of the rest of the film focuses on unravelling the changes that have taken place, whilst Sol and Felix (the parents) struggle to cope with what has happened.
Director Adrían García Bogliano (I'm definitely going to check out more of his films) has explained that he was keen to step away from the slasher/giallo genres that he was comfortable in and embrace the challenge of supernatural horror. It's an interesting challenge, one that wasn't entirely successful but is never dull. Here Comes has the prints of giallo and slasher all over it: in often seems to reveal too much visually, keeping hold of the mystery but losing a lot of the horror atmosphere in shock scenes. Similarly, it never quite escapes from the clichés of supernatural horror: the darkened eyes, the creepy man, the local legend, the levitating body - they're all here. At times, this all seems laid on a little too thick.
But these are minor gripes. Genre film is - by its very nature - bound to be somewhat generic. And the collision of giallo, slasher and supernatural is not really a bad thing (although perhaps some of the scenes are too implausible or too obviously gratuitous). It's a fun film. The real problem is that it suffers from what I have termed Stupid People in Horror Syndrome (SPiHP). Some of the characters are just way too dumb. None of them talk to each other, none of them just talk to the police, none of them think about what they're doing. There are only two things you should feel for the sufferers in horror movie: you should either identify with and feel sorry for them, or you should just look forward to them dying. Here Comes does work hard to make you care about its lead characters but my will to see Sol live, as she repeatedly went off alone to do stupid things, was crumbling. Which was a shame.
None of this should detract from the fact that Here Comes is a good fun film to watch. I'm not usually much of a fan of possession-type films but I thoroughly enjoyed this and would definitely call it one of the better modern horror's I've seen recently. A solid, exciting genre flick for sure, although I'm still not sure quite how it won so many awards...