In the history of horror cinema, has there ever been a bad guy with moniker “The Honey Baron”? Sickly sweet with a sting in the tale? Well, no as it happens, but it is the title given to the main antagonist in new Brazilian film The Devil Lives Here. Not renowned for horror films, it is refreshing to see Brazil getting in on the act, it’s just a pity it’s not such a good film.
Three teenagers go to visit their friend at his family’s farm, unaware that he has plans to delve into the occult and summon a soul from the afterlife - sort of. It turns out, unluckily for the group, that the night they congregate is the very night an age-old battle between good and evil is fought. No sooner has a pentangle been drawn and some moody candles been lit, than some angry descendants turn up with a zombie to ensure that The Honey Baron cannot re-enter this world. Or resurrect his baby son. Because The Honey Baron was a brutal landowner who made his slaves drink honey. WTF?
The Devil Lives Here does set off on a very promising foot. Scene-setting flashbacks blend with modern day teenage antics as all parties convene on the farmhouse. Initially, the film is atmospheric and engaging, as a sense of mystery and intrigue is woven into the plot. You always sense something bad is about to happen, but when it does it feels like the film has somehow lost its nerve. Random possessions, unnecessary torturing and a bout of elongated sex all serve to confuse a story that would have benefitted greatly from a less-is-more approach. You never really get a handle on who is doing what to whom, and when the mighty Honey Baron himself appears, he just feels wholly underwritten and not in the least bit scary.
There are good things in The Devil Lives Here, but nearly all occur in the first act. The performances are fine, if somewhat stifled by what is expected of the cast. Blunt and on-the-nose dialogue feels latterly added in order to explain the developing confusion, and some events are simply left unexplained.
That all said, it is good to see Brazil producing this type of film, and if viewing in some way aids the expansion of their genre film industry, then it must be worth ninety minutes of your time. Just keep those expectations low, and you won’t be too disappointed.
THE DEVIL LIVES HERE / CERT: TBC / DIRECTORS: RODRIGO GASPARINI, DANTE VESCIO / SCREENPLAY: GUILHERME ARANHA, RAFAEL BALIÚ, M.M. IZIDORO / STARRING: PEDRO CARVALHO, PEDRO CAETANO, MARIANA CORTINES / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (VOD)