My notes on the Brazilian O Diabo Mora Aqui (The Devil Lives Here), which is just out on US DVD and VOD. A nicely-made Brazilian cabin-in-the-woods film, which feels a little like a crossbreed of The Evil Dead (teenagers tamper with demonic forces in a cabin which has a sinister basement) and Candyman (though here the honey/bee-associated ghost is a slave-master, not a lynching victim). Withal, it draws on specific elements of Brazilian history and has a style that’s not a slavish imitation of Sam Raimi or Bernard Rose. Directors Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio share a few mannerisms with other Central or South American genre specialists like the skilled Spanish-born/Argentina-based Adrian Garcia Bogliano and even the clumsy Chilian Patricio Valladares – a jittery style, sometimes-sickly colour schemes, tilted camera angles, soundtrack collage of scary burbling, moments of hysteria, and an onrush of impending doom that all but guarantees an unhappy ending.
Four young folks with relationships that are hard to suss out – Apolo (Pedro Carvalho), Ale (Marianna Cortines), Jorge (Diego Goullart) and Maria Augusta (Clara Verdier) – take an ill-advised trip to a cabin on an old plantation … where the descendants of slaves who once suffered under a sadist called the Honey Baron (Ivo Muller), perform a ritual every nine months with a giant nail and a magic circle, intended to summon the ghost of slave Bento (Sidney Santiago) who defied the Honey Baron (who was also his father) as part of a long-term defence against the possibility that the villain’s malevolent spirit will manifest (so guess what happens when the kids botch the ritual). Things aren’t that great for the young folks even before the spookery starts – brittle Ale (the most interesting character) is coping with a nervous condition, and jumpy enough to punch Apolo in the face when he unwisely surprises her. When the savvy, desperate Sebastiao (Pedro Caetano) – who has darker skin than the rest of the gang – shows up to complete the ritual, he brings a gun and acts like a home-invader, which prompts the foursome – perhaps influenced by the ghosts – to resist him.
There are imaginative apparitions – a hood/wicker-mask outfit for one of the spectres suggests a man with a beehive for his head – and there’s a potent cocktail of racial and historical injustices bubbling throughout the standard menace and haunting sequences. It’s not too long to wear out its welcome, though its story is fairly thin. Rafael Baliu is credited as screenwriter, from a story he co-wrote with Guilherme Aranha and M.M. Izidoro – though producer Izidoro also scores a ‘creator’ byline. It has played festivals under the name The Fostering, but is now reverting to a literal translation of the Portuguese title.