Even though I'm not the biggest fan of ghost stories and possession films, foreign directors always tend to offer up films in those sub genres that catch me off guard and leave me feeling satisfied, despite my genre preferences. Argentinian filmmaker Gonzalo Calzada's new feature, Luciferina is one of those films so, without further ado, let's dive into this Satanic shocker.
The film begins by introducing us to Natalia (Sofía Del Tuffo), a nineteen year old novice nun who's journeying home to visit her dying father. Upon arrival at her childhood home, she learns that her father was attacked by her supposedly possessed, now deceased mother. She also discovers that her sister Angela (Malena Sanchez) is in a very dark place mentally and is convinced that the house is home to an evil force that's placed a curse on their family. Natalia is convinced by her sister to go on a trip into the jungle with friends to partake in a shamanistic ritual involving a ceremonial and psychedelic plant. The ritual is said to cure the soul but instead awakens a deep seeded evil within Natalia, unraveling infernal family secrets and unleashing the Devil himself.
My eagerness to view and review Luciferina was fueled by Artsploitation's fantastic releases over the past few months (Molly and Trauma). Once again, the label didn't let me down. Luciferina is a film of several transitions, beginning as a modern Gothic film, with Natalia wandering her seemingly haunted familial estate and experiencing disturbing dreams and visions, a very familiar tone and atmosphere for fans of supernatural horror. The trip into the isolated jungle location is full of bright green plant life contrasted with the abandoned ruins of the church and though Natalia's exploration is somewhat serene, there's a constant feeling of building menace and danger. The filmmakers really did a stellar job with setting up a rich mythology and world building during this segment of the film, drawing the viewer into the experience before sending them plummeting into a hallucinatory hell.
Onto the ritual itself, the meat and potatoes of the film, if you will. From the decrepit, candlelit building interior to the drawn out ceremonial procession itself, every aspect of this scene perfectly comes together to create an unforgettable fever dream of a trip. The events scenes leading up to the film's literal climax are ripe with tasty practical gore effects, demonic possession done right and ’70s style occult thrills. Pregnancy and twisted eroticism are also a running theme throughout, from uterus-like paintings and imagery, to topics such as rape, abortion, and childbirth. All of this is integral to setting up the film's allegorical message.
The film does lose momentum towards the end, this could be due to its long run-time and seemingly repetitive interactions between Natalia and her possible love interest Abel (Pedro Merlo). Luciferina could've benefited from cutting ten to fifteen minutes and ending on a much higher note. There's also some CGI scenes involving a baby in the womb that detract from the experience but I realize these scenes couldn't really have been done in any other way.
All in all, Luciferina is one of the more satisfying and devilishly fun possession films of recent memory, joining The Song of Solomon and Lilith's Hell in my small list of modern favorites. The film contains all the elements that make independent horror enjoyable, rich atmosphere and aesthetics, solid gore effects, and an intriguing plot. It's hard not to be transfixed and unsettled by Luciferina. Though slightly long-winded, the film is sure to satisfy genre audiences.
Luciferina is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD from Artsploitation Films.