Intriguing if ultimately less than satisfying, horror-meller "Here Comes the Devil" takes a low-key, low-graphic-content approach to demonic possession.

Intriguing if ultimately less than satisfying, horror-meller “Here Comes the Devil” takes a low-key, low-graphic-content approach to demonic possession. Tale of a middle-class couple whose two children start acting very strangely after a family trip promises much in an ominously atmospheric package that nods to 1970s genre stylings. But the payoff is on the meh side; this is one of those all-buildup stories in which it feels like the really interesting things will happen after the final fade. Writer-director Adrian Garcia Bogliano’s fan following will bring offshore ancillary sales, with theatrical exposure unlikely beyond Spanish-speaking markets.

After spending a day at the beach, Felix (Francisco Barreiro) and Sol (Laura Caro) let offspring Sara (Michele Garcia) and Adolfo (Alan Martinez) explore a rock-strewn hill alone while their folks enjoy a little sexy time (then naptime) in the car. But hours later, the kids haven’t returned; the panicked parents check into a nearby hotel for the night while police comb the area, a search made more urgent by a local serial killer’s recent spree.

Next morning, the kids are found, seemingly unharmed. But they seem curiously detached when not outright hostile, and input from medical and psychiatric personnel suggests they might be experiencing trauma from a possible sexual assault. Meanwhile, poltergeist-like disturbances plague the household, a babysitter suffers her own trauma, and Sol discovers the kids aren’t spending their days at school as they claim.

Singer Caro (making her feature acting debut) and Barreiro do a creditable job etching an ordinary marriage under increasingly extreme duress, even if their characters’ actions aren’t always plausible. But there’s something wrong with a horror movie when the closing credits music (grindcore track “Terror” by Mexican band the Massacre Must Begin) is scarier than anything preceding it.

Ernesto Herrera’s zoom-happy lensing and the psych-rock flights of Julio Pillado’s original score pay most explicit homage to late ’60s/early ’70s genre cinema, particularly from Europe.

Here Comes the Devil

Mexico-U.S.

Production

An MPI Media Group/Dark Sky Films presentation of a Salto De Fe Films production. (International sales: MPI, Orland Park, Ill.) Produced by Andrea Quinoz Hernandez. Executive producers, Malik B. Ali, Badie Ali, Hamza Ali, Greg Newman. Directed, written by Adrian Garcia Bogliano.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen, DCP), Ernesto Herrera; editor, Carmen Vargas; music, Julio Pillado; production designer, Catalina Oliva; art director, Oliva; set decorator, Eugenio Fernandez; costume designer, Oliva; sound recordist (5.1 Surround), Richard Carreno; sound designer, LSD Audio Design; re-recording mixers, Lex Ortega, Luis Flores; assistant director, German Gabarrot, casting, Gabriela Cortes. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Vanguard), Sept. 13, 2012. (Also in Fantastic Fest; Raindance Film Festival -- opener.) Running time: 97 MIN.

With

Laura Caro, Francisco Barreiro, Michele Garcia, Alan Martinez, David Cabezud, Giancarlo Ruiz, Paco Mufote, Michele Estrada, Juan Carlos Arreguin, Jessica Iris, Dana Dorel. (Spanish dialogue)

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