When someone is going to hypnotherapy, there is a certain level of trust placed in the therapist. Now what if that therapist is possessed by a demonic force looking to take advantage of the situation? This is just one of the ideas explored in “Evil Lurks”, a new indie horror film from director Aaron Hawkins and Chris Shern.
Kimberly suffered a great loss in her life and has been overcome with grief ever since. She seeks the help of a hypnotherapist named Harold. Harold is quickly drawn to her, and he suggests a private therapy session, which she agrees to. Little does she know that her therapist is possessed by a malevolent force known as the “Ssh Man” who appears every 15 years on the blood moon. After being viciously sexually assaulted, Kimberly is sent to the psychiatric hospital where she gives birth to a daughter, Erica. Fifteen years after her birth, the Ssh Man is once again roaming the earth, this time looking for his offspring. Kimberly, knowing that her daughter is in danger, gathers all of her strength to track down Erica and protect her before the “Ssh Man” discovers Erica’s location.
What “Evil Lurks” may lack in budget it makes up for in spirit, creativity and talent. Hawkins and Shern tell a story that covers the subject of grief, loss, foster parenting, and trust. The idea of the “Ssh Man” is chilling and executed well. I loved the concept, and the portrayal was legitimately scary thanks to the performance of Chris Shern. Harold flips between charismatic hypnotist to possessed madman like a light switch. He sells the evil, elevating some of the more extreme scenes. Amanda Winston’s Kimberly is a very sympathetic character. Winston makes you feel her frustration and sadness as she deals with all of the trauma she has experienced. You get the feeling there is something more than just the horrors she’s faced at the hands of the “Ssh Man”. Kimberly’s daughter, Erica, is played by Savannah Mae. I thought she did great as a young woman caught up in something so dark. There was a good mother-daughter chemistry between her and Winston.
It is always interesting to see how a filmmaker will handle extreme abuse scenes. Some show everything, some keep things more to the imagination with quick cuts and obscure camera angles. Hawkins and Shern do a little bit of both. The camera does not shy away from the abuse, giving weight to what is happening, but it does not feel exploitative. Props to both Winston and Shern for how they handled difficult scenes.
“Evil Lurks” feels overambitious when it comes to the visual effects. There are a number of scenes where Kimberly is in a nightmare world. These scenes are where the smaller budget is most evident. The compositing of the green screen is apparent in some spots but Winston still does an excellent job in selling the idea that she is in an otherworldly place. I loved what they were going for and I wish they would have had a bigger budget to pull these sections off better. The dialog audio is also muddled in a few scenes.
The subject of grief, separation, and loss have been a popular subject in horror the last couple years. Some have handled these subjects well while others have stumbled. Evil Lurks is in the middle of this group. While some of the production elements could have been better, it is the direction and performances that make it a worthwhile watch.
I have been reviewing films since high school. I love discussing films with those who share my passion for them. I also do video reviews on YouTube and on my podcast.