Hail, readers! Welcome to Devils in the Details, a monthly column examining the satanic and occult influences in your favorite horror films. This column aims to provide a non-sensational look at these influences by examining their history through the perspective of modern Occult scholarship. The study of the satanic and the occult is a life-long endeavor, and I have much yet to learn. I hope you will join me in this sojourn into the darkness!
In an attempt to explore my own heritage and, to be completely honest, spiritual baggage, I wanted to spotlight a Mexican film for Devils in the Details this month. Here Comes the Devil or Ahi va el Diablo premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012 and won several awards at Fantastic Fest in Austin that same year.
Here Comes the Devil starts off with a pretty intense sex scene that’s followed by an equally intense beating and mutilation. If there’s one thing that can be said about Here Comes the Devil, it’s that it definitely knows how to set viewer expectations! The film pulls no punches when it comes to violence or even sexual situations. Right off the bat, you know what you’re getting yourself into. That being said, this is a trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault involving minors.
The perpetrator of the violent attack flees to a nearby hill where his fate remains a mystery until later in the film. From here on, Here Comes the Devil shifts focus to a family on a day trip to a local beach. Parents Sol and Felix give their children Adolfo and Sara permission to go explore a cave on the same hill. They are believed to be missing when they don’t return, but when they turn up the next day, Sol and Felix are relieved. Unfortunately, all is not quite right with the children as they exhibit detached behavior.
After consulting with a doctor and a psychiatrist, Sol and Felix believe a strange local they ran into on the trip may have sexually assaulted the children. Acting impulsively, the couple track him down and murder him. Despite their misguided belief that this would bring some peace to the family, strange occurrences continue including some Exorcist-style bed levitations! Honestly, one of the strengths of Here Comes the Devil are its quick cuts and whiplash camera movements in these scenes.
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“[…] the usual formula of Satan being conquered by a mother’s love or devout faith is subverted in Here Comes the Devil.”
Before continuing, it’s important to make some cultural distinctions. Mexican (and more generally Latin American) culture’s relationship with the Devil and anything Satanic is somewhat unique. These cultures are heavily based in Catholicism largely due to the region’s colonial history. Keeping this context in mind for the rest of this discussion is important, as the usual formula of Satan being conquered by a mother’s love or devout faith is subverted in Here Comes the Devil.
The sequence of events is not exactly linear in Here Comes the Devil, so backtracking a bit to the night of the murder, Sol claims to be “the devil” here to take him away. This interpretation of Satan, or the Devil as he is more commonly referred in Latin American cultures, as a sort of grim reaper who personally escorts souls to Hell is common throughout the world. Faust is a particularly apt example. However, in Mexican culture particularly, this version of the Devil is often used as a boogeyman of sorts. It was a common threat, at least in my family, that if you were bad or a sinner, “el Diablo te llevará!” or “the Devil will take you away!”
In any case, Sol uses this to taunt Lucio, the strange man they are planning to murder. In this context, this sort of threat has a dreadful malice to it especially with Felix’s knife pressed against Lucio’s throat. Further, this claim of diabolism would be particularly frightening to Lucio given what is revealed later in the film. That is, that Lucio was not a predator and instead was attempting to keep the evil spirits that inhabit the hill at bay with prayer and small offerings. Seeing the embodiment of that which he sought to stop and that embodiment brazenly admitting to its demonic origin would likely have been a waking nightmare.
Upon returning from their murderous field trip, Felix and Sol find their babysitter gone with no explanation. Later in the film, Marcia reveals what transpired that night. After the typical dinner and TV, this night of babysitting took a turn for the paranormal. Apparently being supernaturally drugged, Marcia explains that she was assaulted by what she believes is the Devil himself (based on a painting she once saw) and that after, he stood on her chest which she reveals in perhaps the most gratuitous scene in Here Comes the Devil.
The devil or demon on the chest is a commonly reported phenomena tied to sleep paralysis. For those unfamiliar, this is a physiological condition in which your mind awakes while your body is still asleep, giving a sense of paralysis and often coinciding with visual and auditory hallucinations. Though not entirely scientifically understood, this condition is extensively documented throughout human history with apparitions taking the form of old hags or cats in some cases. With Mexican culture’s unique fascination with the Devil and the attribution of anything unexplainable and vaguely evil to the Devil, it’s no surprise that Here Comes the Devil would make use of this trope.
More disturbing, however, is when Marcia checks on the children only to find them “together” in the biblical sense. At first, the viewer, along with Sol, attributes this to the evil that has plagued the children since the fateful day they went missing, but as is revealed later in the film, this is something with which the kids were already engaged. I’ll touch more on this a little later.
“Here Comes the Devil is a deeply disturbing film with sex and violence being presented so bluntly that at times it is a bit off-putting.”
After the murder, Sol and Felix are questioned and borderline harassed by an investigator who rightly suspects them of Lucio’s murder. There isn’t much to this story thread, and quite frankly I’m not sure what the purpose is other than upping the tension. If you have any thoughts, please do let me know! Sol, however, begins an investigation of her own as the paranormal phenomena in the home continues. This investigation takes her back to the town near the infamous hill in which she meets a local gas station attendant who explains that the “inhabitants” of that hill are always in search of “weak prey” to possess.
Sol’s investigation leads to her discovery of the biggest reveal of the film. That is that both of the children’s bodies lie dead and decaying within the cave meaning that the two living with Sol and Felix are not their children. At this point, Sol traps the imposter children within the home with the gas stove running, presumably in an attempt to cause an explosion or fire, and asks Felix to meet her at the hill.
Upon explaining her findings to Felix and his witness to his children’s dead bodies, he shots Sol in the head before presumably shooting himself as the camera cuts to the cave exterior with the sound of a single gunshot. The entire family is then seen returning to the car implying their death and subsequent possession.
While Here Comes the Devil is extremely disturbing in many respects, its message is worth dissecting. The cave on the hill seems to represent a sort of portal to Hell, evidenced by earthquakes following each possession, from which demons come forth to possess unwitting and weak bodies.
However, I would argue that these demonic forces do not simply seek out “weak prey” as the gas station attendant put it. Instead, they seek out those of weak moral character. For example, Lucio is shown to be a weak individual in the sense that he cowers and folds when Sol and Felix question him, yet he is not possessed despite making several trips and offerings to appease the spirits. Further, although Felix and Sol are distraught at learning the truth of their children’s deaths, they are not exactly “weak” in the sense that they would be easily possessed. Instead, it is the morality of the character that determines their fitness for possession.
As touched upon earlier, Catholicism is deeply ingrained in Mexican culture, and as such, this becomes the basis for the morality in this film. Those on whom the demonic forces preyed were shown to already possess a lack of moral character when it comes to Catholicism; i.e. brother and sister in an incestuous relationship, mother and father obsessed with revenge. According to the film, at least, this made them prime targets for possession rather than the other way around.
Here Comes the Devil is a deeply disturbing film with sex and violence being presented so bluntly that at times it is a bit off-putting. It is difficult to pin down exactly what it is trying to say. I mentioned that I chose this film as a chance to explore Satanism and demonic themes through the lens of my own culture. Here Comes the Devil is exactly what I would expect from a Mexican production about demonic forces, and while I may not agree with the message myself, I can definitely say that it is one hell of a horror movie!
What did you think of this film? Did you have a different interpretation? Maybe you can explain what the point of the investigator was! Let us know Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, or in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!