Spanish horror Everyone Will Burn is a wicked soap opera where good vs. evil is only part of the end of days.
David Hebrero’s Everyone Will Burn (Y Todos Arderán) employs multiple genres to create an absurdist horror melodrama with deep resonance regarding Spanish religious hypocrisy over the centuries. The film is akin to a much camper version of J.A. Bayona’s The Orphanage with echoes of “cursed child” stories such as Richard Donner’s The Omen. While there are plenty of bone crunching horror moments, Everyone Will Burn also exists in a soap opera realm – a small town filled with secrets and muddied relationships where gossip is supreme. It can take a while for the two driving narrative styles to merge, but when they do, it’s fantastic.
Everyone Will Burn opens with a crawl that explains that, in 1980, in a small village named Rozas del Monte, a group of people performed an act of child sacrifice to stave off what they presumed was the apocalypse. The story was buried and forgotten (deliberately or otherwise), and forty years later it is relegated to a nursery rhyme. Yet it most certainly happened and there was collateral damage. The town was saved, but at what cost? Considering the state of Rozas del Monte forty years later, the question is raised if it was even worth saving.
Hebrero cuts to a woman standing on a bridge in her pointed shoes and impeccable hat. María José (Macarena Gómez) is about to end her life after enduring years of loss and becoming somewhat a social pariah because of her son Lolo’s (Pablo García) suicide and his noticeable “difference.” It has been thirteen years since Lolo died, and soon after, María José’s husband David (Rodolfo Sancho) left her and the town. Since, she has barely kept her sanity. She is about to take the plunge and a strange girl of indeterminate age (Sofía García) covered in mud calls her mother. She is not the child’s mother, but she feels a natural urge to protect the girl (who has dwarfism, a similar condition to Lolo).
Driving from the bridge back to town and trying to make sense of the girl’s reluctance to speak, María José encounters two aggressive policemen. They want to know who the girl is and if María José knows anything about cattle mutilation in the area. María José explains that she was on the way to the police station to try to find the girl’s parents, but the girl decides to speak and say that María José is her mother. They violently pull María José from the car to arrest her. The girl manifests her psychic power and causes the deaths of the men.
There is a difficult choice for María José: does she continue to harbour the uncanny child who may be a harbinger of doom for her, or does she turn her out? Her instinct is to protect, and soon María José and Lucía, as she is named, become bonded. There is darkness in Lucía – she is not a child of the divine. But for María José, the people who have espoused religious teachings have scorned her and her son. She seeks a vengeance on the town that abandoned her and bullied Lolo to death and Lucía is her avenging angel: she’s there to protect her and to ensure the age-old prophecy comes into being. Two souls joined in trauma shall produce a seed.
Hebrero and co-writer Javier Kiran are far less interested in a classic good versus evil scenario than they are in investigating the madness of crowds and irrationality. They are also interested in zealotry, blind belief, and the flaws that plague humanity as much as those plagues of epic proportions. Even so called “rational voices” such as the Mayor Honorio (Fernando Cayo) when dealing with his true believer wife, Teresa (Ana Milán) and the young padre in training, Juan (Rubén Ochandiano) when dealing with Padre Abelino (Germán Torres) are suspect to corruption. The progressive David and his younger pregnant wife, Ari (Ella Kweku), are ready to turn against María José and Lucía because they are bearing grudges and guilt both old and new.
The deliciously costumed and filmed melodrama doesn’t skimp on the horror. It is mostly delivered in an almost surreal fashion, but the death of Toti (Guillermo Estrella), the son of Honorio and Teresa, who was one of Lolo’s primary bullies, is an object lesson in vengeance delivered without pity to the young man who is truly sorry.
In the Bible, ‘The Book of Revelation’ speaks of the prophecy that, when Armageddon comes, the righteous and pure believers in Christ will go to Heaven. In Everyone Will Burn, revelations are what almost all the townspeople fear. Lucía tells Padre Abelino that he is the last person to be revealing anyone else’s secrets, considering the weight of his own numerous sins. David can’t pretend any kind of moral superiority to María José because of his past actions. Perhaps he is not a murderer, but did he not add to María José’s intense misery and desire for self-obliteration?
Neighbours who pretend concern, such as Remedios (Raquel Lobelos), have long hated María José for being the mother of Lolo. Teresa blames the town’s woes on “the monster child:” that child is Lolo as much as it is Lucía.
Everyone Will Burn is cerebral, visceral, and has style for miles. It can be confusing trying to work out who screwed over whom, but in the end, the apocalypse is coming as much through human action or inaction as it is through any religious battle. No matter what lessons people learn they are doomed to repeat the sins of the past. In the end, Hebrero has you cheering on the seed of the devil because the seed of the so called religiously moral is fraudulent. It was the religiously moral who started the Spanish Inquisition. There is a purity of purpose and deserved scorched earth response from María José and Lucía whose connection is first based on mutual need but later on true affection and sacrifice. Something the religious would not apply to themselves no matter how much they think they’d emulate Jesus.
Everyone Will Burn will be released in select US theaters from December 1 (NYC, LA, Austin) and on digital platforms on December 5, 2023.