The Devil Lives Here

Teenagers and twenty-somethings are much the same the world over, at least in horror movies. They stumble into urban legends just the same in South America as they do in the U.S. The Devil Lives Here is a Brazilian offering, based on the tale of the Honey Baron. It isn't a real urban legend, or more precisely not a preexisting urban legend as far as I can tell, but one they made up for the film. Being a Honey Baron doesn't seem all that awful (insert 'sweet' pun here), but this particular Honey Baron (Ivo Müller) is not at all a nice man. I should say "was", since he's been dead at least since the 1880's.

Back in the day, though, he was a big landowner who raised honeybees, and he ruled over his part of the world with an iron fist, doing horrible things to the slaves he owned. Inevitably they rose up against him and he was killed, but there's also a complicated curse involved to ensure that his soul will suffer and be trapped forever in the spot where he died. This spot happens to be in the basement of his old farmhouse, and requires a ritual to be performed every nine months to keep the curse going. Now that's high maintenance.

Enter four teenagers and twenty-somethings. Apolo (Pedro Carvalho) is the host, his family having bought the house some time ago. Best friend Jorge (Diego Goullart) has come for a visit with his girlfriend Alexandra (Mariana Cortines) and his cousin Maria Augusta (Clara Verdier), known as Magu. Alexandra, usually called Ale, has some issues, the kind that require medication, so I'm not sure taking her to a house with at least two tormented souls in the cellar is the best idea.

Certainly Apolo is a little too interested in the old story, mainly in the fact that an innocent baby's spirit is also involved. I'm not up on rituals for making evil spirits suffer, but this one does seem a little harsh. The old caretaker has recently died -- not, apparently, as a result of the curse -- and therefore Apolo thinks no one will show up this time for the ritual refresher. Unknown to him, though, Sebastião (Pedro Caetano) and Luciano (Felipe Frazão), sons of the caretaker, intend to carry on the tradition, with the help of their 'secret weapon', Bento (Sidney Santiago).

This is where everything collides and it's very easy to start losing track of what's going on and why. I need to find some sort of online course in spirit-trapping, because I'm still hazy on some of the details. The Honey Baron (Barão do Mel in Portuguese, in case you're curious) seems able to persuade anyone to do anything, but it's hard to tell where his manipulation ends and coincidence begins. As is typical for horror movies, he gets a lot of lucky breaks anyway, so that doesn't help sort things out.

Despite scrambling to catch up, though, I enjoyed it. The performances are convincing and there's a good slow build to get to the really creepy parts. It isn't so full of blood and violence that it stops being shocking, which goes well with Müller's quietly insidious performance as the Honey Baron. The kids even have a bit more common sense overall than the average horror movie characters, though not quite enough. It isn't entirely their fault, though -- even with a script to look at this was probably still pretty confusing.

The creepy headgear is what beekeepers wore back in the day.


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