September 14, 2020 Luz: The Flower of Evil (Movie Review)
Faith is a multi-layered experience full of endless complications, but many of us still want to believe in something. So when their dogma is challenged by a slowly unraveling web of lies, a community creates their own savior in Luz: The Flower of Evil. Dark Sky Films delivers the Folk Horror/Drama offering to Digital and VOD on Tuesday, September 15, 2020.
Its arrival marks the exceptional feature debut of Writer-Director Juan Diego Escobar Alzate (Live Life Dearest short 2014, The Colors of Hope and Wonder short 2016), and the film stars renowned Colombian actress Yuri Vargas (Revenge Strategy 2016, Playing with Fire series) as well as screen icon Conrado Osario (Sniper: Ultimate Kill 2016, Heart’s Decree series) in a deeply-religious tale of the light and dark within each of us.
Presented in Spanish with English subtitles, the story revolves around El Señor (Osario), the leader of a small cult in the mountains of Colombia. Following the death of his wife, Luz, he returns to his village with a child (Johan Camacho) whom he purports to be the new Messiah, but only pain and destruction follow in the boy’s wake. Suddenly under attack from his own followers—particularly Elias (Daniel Páez: Alborada carmesí 2009, Narcos series) and Adam (Jim Muñoz: One Way Out series, All For Love series)—El Señor fails to notice the changes occurring inside his own home.
Amid its walls, El Señor’s three lovely angels—Laila (Andrea Esquivel: Afuera del Tiempo 2019, Last Pasantes mini-series), Uma (Vargas), and Zion (Sharon Guzman: La Reina del Sur series, Tonada al Viento mini-series)—are beginning to awaken to the world around them and question their deepest held beliefs, as well as to express their burgeoning sexuality. And so with his family and his followers turning toward doubt, El Señor will soon face a reckoning.
“Everything that has to do with God is complicated,” warns Osario’s El Señor, and that is certainly the case in Luz: The Flower of Evil. A slow-burn Folk Horror film the likes of 2015’s The Witch and 2017’s Hagazussa, Alzate’s feature-length debut is a provocative look at the nature of evil, the struggle to believe, and, ultimately, so much more. With its roots in the Christian faith, the film explores the beauty and unpredictability of nature, how humanity tries to mirror that wild spirit, and how each of us is a combination of light and dark.
And while Osario’s El Señor is a prophet amid his flock, he is not so much a charismatic cult leader as a domineering man who has been given the reins thanks to his community’s blind faith in his gospel. In this, Alzate dips into debates far beyond a ‘simple’ crisis of faith, exploring rugged terrain that offers an exceptional filmgoing experience provided you are a fan of slow-moving Folk Horror. Coupling its intriguing plot with lovely cinematography from Nicolás Caballero Arenas (Bang Gang: Out of Horizon video short 2015) that boasts an eye for the magnificence of nature and revels in Colombia’s exquisite scenery, as well as a lovely, nuanced score from Brian Heater, the movie’s top-notch acting is hardly the only means in which Luz: The Flower of Evil lures her viewers in.
With Osario holding down the role of El Señor with a passion that is indicative of his character’s faith-filled fury, he paves the way for his co-stars to succeed in their diverse roles. There’s Vargas, whose Uma is beginning to blossom into womanhood. Wise in words, though not always in deeds, Vargas’ character provides a middle-ground for the curious Laila and doubting Zion. The youngest of the girls, Guzman’s Zion wants so much to believe in the man she calls a father, and yet her faith is challenged by scenes that she observes. Opposing forces, Zion is the soft-spoken sister who is desperately trying to hold on to hope, while Vargas has lost interest in the gospel of her flawed father (i.e. humanity) but holds an endless amount of respect for nature.
And then there’s Esquivel’s Laila, the star of the show. The eldest sister at twenty-three, she has fallen in love with the devil (i.e. music), and dares to question how evil can come in such a spiritually uplifting package. Her discovery of music is emotional and sensual, the elegant Esquivel making love to a tape recorder and old cassette as she loses herself to the power of Mother Nature and art. Her voiceover work, too, is flawless, as the wonderful actress has a lovely, soft but firm voice that delivers some of the film’s most intriguing notions.
Ultimately, thanks to the talents of Esquivel, Osario, Vargas, Guzman and the entire ensemble cast, we must ask ourselves if good and evil are one and the same? But what you take away from Luz: The Flower of Evil is likely to be a heavy reflection of your own notions of faith and religion, as well as your relationship to nature, as the questions that arise throughout this beautifully haunting film involve loss of faith, miracles and false prophets, the cleansing power of nature, and the harmony of light and dark. Aesthetically pleasing and poetic in its approach, Cryptic Rock gives Luz: The Flower of Evil 4.5 of 5 stars.