With one foot in the supernatural folk horror camp and the other foot planted firmly in the slasher subgenre, Brazilian effort The Devil Lives Here (also known as The Fostering and its original title of O Diablo Mora Aqui) is a confusing effort that mystifies in all the wrong ways. It has some interesting ideas, though, making it worth consideration when viewers are in the mood for a new foreign horror offering.
The film starts off with three storylines, two of which occur at different times. A major problem for me is that, for a while, I had no idea that one of these storylines was set in the past. That may be my own fault but perhaps not; however, I wasn’t taken enough with the film nor so displeased with it to bother watching the first several scenes again to see if I had missed something. I will attempt to clarify the basic plot for readers, though so that if you watch The Devil Lives Here, you’ll be going in with an advantage that I didn’t have.
Magu (Clara Verdier), her cousin Jorge (Diego Goullart), and his girlfriend Alexandra (Mariana Cortines) drive to the country to visit their friend Apolo (Pedro Cravalho) at his home; Apolo has some well-intended supernatural shenanigans in mind. Meanwhile, brothers Sebastião (Pedro Caetano) and Luciano (Felipe Frazao) are getting ready to perform a centuries-old ritual to ward off evil. The third storyline concerns — and please keep in mind I had no idea who these next two characters were, what their exact relationship was, or that their scenes were actually set in the past until it was explained later on, sometimes by some of the present-day characters — a slave owner known as The Honey Baron (Ivo Muller) and one of his slaves, Bento (Sidney Santiago).
I’ll attempt to streamline Rafael Baliú’s rambling, puzzling screenplay for you: All of the present-day characters get caught up in a supernatural war involving the resurrected spirits of The Honey Baron, his son with a slave, and a slave that The Honey Baron murdered. I have a feeling that the confusion isn’t entirely Baliú’s fault, as the credits list a second person with creator and story credits, and a third person with another story credit. Add two directors — Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio — to the mix, and it becomes a bit clearer that too many ideas were thrown around without being thought through, eliminated, or streamlined. For example, one of the men fighting against The Honey Baron’s evil spirit starts acting like a murderer himself, so why should viewers continue to pull for him or the side for which he is fighting?
The Devil Lives Here serves up too many head-scratching moments to sustain any level of suspense. A prime example, and perhaps one of the few humorous ones, at least in my eyes, is when two of the characters decide to have sex when all around them is supernatural chaos, anguish, and bloodshed. Trying to add a third “f” option to the fight-or-flight syndrome isn’t the wisest idea, especially when the murderous baddies are mere feet away from you.
As villains go, The Honey Baron has a cool-looking, old-school beekeeping outfit with an interesting mask, but that’s about it, and only for a few scenes. Ivo Muller alternates between giving a fun, sadistic performance as that character and chewing up scenery. The rest of the cast plays it straighter and acquit themselves rather well. The acting is probably the strongest part of The Devil Lives Here. Despite the bewildering storyline, the actors give their best efforts and rise above the material they are given.
The Devil Lives Here isn’t a total loss. It definitely has a few things to make it worth a watch. Besides the acting, directors Gasparini and Vescio show some potential; I have the feeling that with material that is more grounded, the duo could elevate their craft more in their next outing. Kaue Zilli’s cinematography is impressive, as well. Some good ideas are present; they are just jumbled up with confusing elements. If you are a Latin American horror cinema completist or just feel curious about checking out some new foreign fear fare, you are sure to find some entertaining moments of one kind or another in The Devil Lives Here.