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December 20, 2016

The Devil Lives Here

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O Diabo Mora Aqui
Rodrigo Gasparini and Dante Vescio - 2015
Artsploitation Films Region 1 DVD

While my knowledge of Brazilian culture and history is minimal, my reaction to The Devil Lives Here is that there is more to this film than simply the dramatic recreation of an urban legend. In the early Seventies, I was able to see a few films by young Brazilian filmmakers, peers to the various filmmakers around the globe at that time whose cinema was considered new. In this case, it was known as "Cinema Novo". The most significant filmmaker of that movement was Glauber Rocha, whose films mixed history, politics and some of the mystic folk beliefs of Brazil. One of Rocha's most famous films is titled, Black God, White Devil.

I thought of Rocha's film because there is a racial dynamic established immediately in this new film. The narrative shifts between a quartet of white kids, a pair of mestizo young men, both taken place in the present, with the third narrative strand being the confrontation between a wealthy white landowner and a mestizo beekeeper in the unspecified past. The beekeeper is murdered and the bee hives burned down by the white landowner. There is a curse, that results in forces of the dead to be revived, seriously by the mestizo youths, and as an elaborate prank by one of the white young men. Most of the writing about The Devil Lives Here compares that film to Candyman, Bernard Rose's film inspired by an urban legend of a murderous ghost brought back to life.

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And perhaps I am reading more into this film than was ever intended, but I would assume that there are elements to this film that would be understood by a Brazilian audience, but overlooked by many viewers in North America. Aside from the historical aspects, such as when Brazil was a slave-holding country, there are matters of cultural colonialism and appropriation. The young white artist, Apolo, has taken the basement where real horror took place, and painted a large pentagram, with candles planted at various points. Whatever he thought he was doing, he liberates forces he really doesn't know or can control. Even the young mestizo who thinks he knows what he's doing in trying to control the situation finds himself over his head. What follows are the more familiar tropes of violent death and demonic possession.

The Devil Lives Here is the feature debut of Gasparini and Vescio. Previously, they had made their mark with the short, "M is for Mailbox", part of The ABCs of Death, Part 2. Much of the horror is by suggestion, with the use of light, shadow and elliptical editing. This is the kind of film that can be enjoyed simply on a visceral level, yet suggests that that there is much more to be appreciated and understood.

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Posted by peter at December 20, 2016 08:46 AM