November 13, 2018 Luciferina (Movie Review)
It sounds like a spin-off too far from Vampirina, but there is nothing Disney-like going on here. Due out on November 20th on Blu-ray/DVD and Digital HD December 4th through Artsploitation Films, Luciferina is an occult Horror flick from Argentina. As such, one can expect satanic shenanigans, gory deaths, and Spanish dialogue with English subtitles.
Written and directed by Gonzalo Calzada (Luisa 2009, Resurrection 2015), Luciferina is about a young nun called Natalia (Sofia Del Tutto: Interludio 2016, CHIKE 2017). She is informed that her parents had an accident. Her mother died, but her father survived. So, she reluctantly returns home, plagued by nightmares like the visions her mother painted before she died. Nobody knows how she died, and her father is stuck in a catatonic state. Her sister Ángela (Malena Sánchez: Tuya 2015, El Aprendiz 2016) thinks she can discover the truth by going through a rite with a sacred plant in Tigre. It could cure their father, so he can explain himself. She just needs her friends and Natalia to go along with her. They may find the answers they seek or uncover something worse.
The 2018 Horrorant Film Festival nominated this film for the Best Film award. Though the only one who walked away with some gold was Del Tutto for Best Actress. Could there be more prizes in its future? Or was it lucky enough to get what it got in the first place?
If there are Horror bingo scorecards out there, this film might produce a winner or two. There are youngsters heading into a remote, wooded location, which might as well be the free space. Then there is a spooky ritual involved a la The Evil Dead films amongst others. Obviously, it has satanic themes going for it, alongside a ghost that looks remarkably like the one from 1998’s Ring. That is not to say it does not have its differences. Like they go to an abandoned abbey in the jungle than a cabin in the woods. Plus, the ghost holds its arms up with the hands curved inwards to try and represent a uterus.
This raises some questions, though these may be answered by the title sequence alone. Where an ornamental, somewhat womb-shaped monolith gives way to a CG recreation of the reproduction process. Egg, sperm, embryo, etc. Clearly the occult takes it literally when someone tells them it is what is inside that counts. The film spreads its elements out at the beginning before bringing them all together. Sexuality is a point, as Natalia suppresses hers and Ángela’s boyfriend Mauro (Francisco Donovan: Champs 12 2009. The Clan 2015) barely controls his. That is not to mention the spiritual angle either, as Natalia may not be all that she seems.
But how well does it all come together? Despite the weird themes, the film gets rather conventional by the closing act. It goes from being a Rosemary’s Baby/Evil Dead/The Exorcist pastiche to just The Exorcist with a Slasher motif. The plot does have its twists and turns, be it mixing its Catholic themes with South American indigenous ones, or surprise reveals. However, more experienced Horror vets might be able to see them coming. The same goes for the scares, as they are more of the jump-variety. The bloody makeup and effects are good, but they are unlikely to lurk in the viewer’s mind and give them chills. They just shock and run.
Not that it does not try to do chills. The sound design adds some whispery vocals to some scenes to give it that sense of foreboding. It is standard yet works out well. The film looks rather nice too, with some neat transitions between scenes, clear resolution, and a fair use of lighting. That said, some of the camera trickery does stick out. The CG touches are cheap enough to look fake, yet pricey enough to not look completely hokey. Basically, it is just okay, like a mid-2000’s Horror flick.
Spanish speakers would have a better take on the acting, but Del Tutto does come off well as Natalia. Her character comes off as a sympathetic centre to the film – balancing innocence with a dark side. Sánchez’s Ángela is fair too, though she would not have had to push herself too hard to portray her. Her role as the bad girl of the two sisters could have come off an assembly line.
Overall, despite its weirder elements, Luciferina is a largely typical Occult Horror movie. Its sexual themes make it a touch saucier than its American counterparts. Ultimately, it is not that much different enough from them. With okay camerawork, nice soundwork, fair acting, and acceptable CG, it equals up to an average film. Luciferina will not do much for viewers, but it will not hurt them either. As such, Cryptic Rock gives this film 3 out of 5 stars.