The Mexican possession film The Inhabitant (El Habitante) recently celebrated it’s North American premiere at the 2018 Toronto After Dark Film Festival. The film follows three sisters in over their heads after they find more than they were expecting during a home invasion robbery. Written and directed by Guillermo Amoedo, the film stars María Evoli, Vanesa Restrepo, Carla Adell, and the young Natasha Cubria as a particularly sinister possessed girl with the underworld’s most crooked smile. The film is both strengthened and tragically weakened by it’s desire to shock and surprise it’s audience, but does effectively craft an unsettling mood and atmosphere.
The demon at the centre of this story is devilishly manipulative, peering into the dark recesses of our characters souls, reveling in the anguish and suffering her prying disturbs. Exorcism movies have always featured demons that reveal painful secrets of those around them, but The Inhabitant pulls no punches with our characters’ tortured back stories. Sure, Father Karass felt pretty bad about his poor mother but the world of this film, like our own, is plagued by evil much more sinister than a good boy’s guilty conscience.
The Inhabitant follows three sisters that have broken into the home of a senator to steal $400,000. The oldest Camila (Vanesa Restrepo) is in a jam, indebted to some pretty unsavory folks, and her sisters Maria (María Evoli) and Ana (Carla Adell) have come along to reluctantly help. They are not career criminals but their sister is in over her head and they can’t let her do it alone. Inside the home Maria discovers that Camila has brought a gun along with her. It wasn’t part of the plan, and she very clearly does not approve but Camila has a dark past, paying for her crimes with 8 years of her life, and under no circumstances does she plan to return to that awful jail cell.
Aside from the homeowners who made for a little bit of trouble before they were tied to chairs, the robbery is going smoothly. That is, until Camila hears a faint cry coming from a hidden room. Inside, she finds a little girl tied down to a bed in a dark basement room. The parents beg her to put the girl back in her room downstairs, pleading to the girls that “It’s not what it looks like” and that everyone will be much safer if they look their daughter back up immediately. After the sisters storm off to talk over their options and obligations to this little girl, the senator reassures his wife that everything will be fine. They only have to wait 3 short hours for the priests to arrive and begin the exorcism.
H0rror has a long standing tradition of characters that find themselves In the wrong place at the wrong time. In The Inhabitant our characters are in over their head before the movie even starts, and things only get worse the longer they spend inside the senator’s home. It’s probably worth saying that I’m a big fan of robberies-gone-wrong movies. Maybe it’s because you get all the excitement of a heist movie without all the cop drama. Maybe it’s because I like characters who are forced into a corner with no way to call for help. Regardless, you tell me that a bunch of losers in leather want to steal Dracula’s tomb, or some young punks are about to break into an old blind man’s house to empty his safe- I’m in. What if they find the entire family inside brutal murdered by a crazed bug collector? What if the old, infirm lady upstairs is actually a vampire? I do not want to miss an opportunity to see some young nogoodniks, forced into a life of crime, battling for their lives against a demonic force that has been chained up inside that house.
Sure, excitement may have gotten the best of me but for a little while The Inhabitant had a lot to offer right up front. The movie is nothing without it’s twists but there were maybe a few too many of them. Don’t get me wrong, the twists in this movie are great but after a while, when the tables have been turned again and again, I started to pay less attention because I know the rug was only going to get pulled out from under me as soon I get comfortable. There are some truly great moments in The Inhabitant, scenes that take the by-the-books possession story to a truly dark place, but I slowly felt myself slipping away at times that I should have been fully engrossed. Like most exorcism movies there is a lot of praying. Mostly from the priest on screen but also from me, begging the movie for something more. If the priest in peril trope is a personal favourite of yours, I would highly recommend The Inhabitant, but it’s a story that left me wanting more than just a series of rash decisions and spiritual recitation.
There are some truly great moments in THE INHABITANT, scenes that take the by-the-books possession story to a truly dark place, but I slowly felt myself slipping away at times that I should have been fully engrossed. Like most exorcism movies there is a lot of praying. Mostly from the priest on screen but also from me, begging the movie for something more. If the priest in peril trope is a personal favourite of yours, I would highly recommend The Inhabitant, but it's a story that left me wanting more than just a series of rash decisions and spiritual recitation.