Luciferina Movie Review
Written by Ren Zelen
Released by Buffalo Films
Written and directed by Gonzalo Calzada
2018, 111 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Frightfest UK Premiere on 26th August 2018
Sofía Del Tuffo
It seems one can’t have a horror movie festival without at least one movie about demonic possession and a sexy novice nun. At least Gonzalo Calzada’s Luciferina has the added exoticism of being a product of Argentina and can throw that South American concoction of Catholicism, superstition, Shamanism and hallucinogenic plant potions into the mix.
Apparently, Luciferina may be one of Argentina’s first cinematic forays into demonic possession and satanic rites. If that is the case, it’s not a bad initial attempt, but at a running time of nearly 2 hours, it takes some time to unfold.
We are introduced to Natalia (Sofia Del Tuffo), a 19-year-old novice in a convent, who is instructed by the Mother Superior (Victoria Carreras) to return home to her estranged father (Vando Villamil), as her mother has died, and he is seriously injured. As she unenthusiastically submits, Natalia turns to view some young nuns in the act of tidying the altar in the church and reveals what appears to be a rather pointless ability to see people’s auras.
Natalia reluctantly returns home to find her father bandaged up and confined to his bed in a kind of catatonic shock. She is reunited with Angela (Malena Sánchez) her vaguely goth sister, and an unlikely student of psychology, who informs her that she wants nothing to do with the situation at home, as their mother had violently attacked her father and then committed suicide.
That evening, a group of Angela’s university friends turn up, and the virginal Natalia is taunted and insulted by her sister’s abusive boyfriend, a boorish thug who is heartily disliked by the rest of the group. Despite declaring themselves Atheists, they are all keen to set off into the wilds of the island of Tigre where they will experiment with the ancient rite originating from Ayahuasca. This is presided over by a Shaman (Tomás Lipán), who will require them to drink a dodgy hallucinogenic potion which will apparently reveal their inner secrets and so cure their various psychological (and even physical) ills.
Angela is convinced that the Shaman and the potion will unlock some dark aspect of their own past and persuades Natalia to accompany her and the group into the forest to try and find what it is that she suspects has been hidden from them both.
Young people delving into the occult rarely come out well in horror films, and sure enough, instead of revelations, this particular bunch are destined to stumble across something far more violent, vicious and deadly.
Lucerfina turns out to be a lengthy movie which can be divided into two parts. During its first half the movie can’t quite make up its mind as to what kind of story it is. It keeps teasing scares that are reminiscent of several horror genres – a haunted house movie, a Rosemary’s Baby shocker, a druggy Altered States tribute. It doesn’t know what it wants from its main character – Natalia has unexplained issues with her convent and her family, a love-hate relationship with her sister, an arbitrary aura-spotting superpower, and an unclear connection to Abel (Pedro Merlo), a young man who is another outsider in the group.
It’s not until the second half of the film, when the Ayahuasca drug-trip reveals secrets from Natalia and Angela’s past, that the plot starts in earnest. Then we discover a whole range of nefarious goings on – Black Masses, bloody deaths and deeply distressing births. Ultimately it all results in Natalia herself clashing with the Devil, which oddly enough, involves an extended period of nudity and a variety of sex positions – a racy and unusual version of an exorcism – a ‘Sexorcism’ one might say...
Luciferina offers a rather convoluted and disjointed plotline where several aspects are messily conveyed and issues are left unresolved. We never really gather what the point of it all was. Nevertheless, director Gonzalo Calzada does create a visually arresting film with atmospheric locations and many memorably disturbing moments (as well as some inevitable jump scares). The film exploits religion, superstition, evil and sexuality - always a heady combination in horrors about devilish deeds.
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