Luz is a unique take on the possession sub-genre that has long been waiting for a refresh. I’m a big fan of possession movies but I get bogged down watching priests and theology experts read from ancient texts, chanting prayers, waiting for God to swoop in and save the day. Possession movies are the gold standard of supernatural stories because they pit your characters against an evil that has already taken hold. There is no safe place to hide, there is no escape.
With a brief 70-minute run time, Luz is a story that has been trimmed of all excess. I was surprised when the credits rolled, but truth is, there was nothing missing. It would have been easy to add-on twenty minutes of back story and jump scares, but Luz doesn’t care about either. Everything you need to know is established visually very early on, or is revealed as we descend deeper into the fog of our lead’s troubled mind.
Luz follows (you guessed it) Luz (Luana Velis), a young cabdriver who has recently been placed under supervision after leaping out of her vehicle mid-ride. Although walking herself to the police station after her “accident”, she has been mostly uncooperative. Police officers ask her questions to better figure out what exactly happened but she sits still, quietly reciting an unsettling version of the lord’s prayer. In it she refers to evil, hypocrisy, and sexual abuse but nothing seems to explain her injuries, or where to find her missing taxi cab.
Simultaneously, we find police psychiatrist Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) quietly sitting at a bar, trying to ignore his beeper and the other bar patrons. After some persistence, he begins to chat with a woman named Nora (Julia Riedler) who asks for advice about a friend who recently injured herself jumping from a moving cab. Dr. Rossini becomes quite drunk trying to match Nora drink for drink as she goes into more elaborate detail about her friend, Luz.
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“..An eerie and (literally) hypnotic dive into […] a chilling nightmare that engulfs the room and everyone in it.”
As though under a hypnotic spell, Dr. Rossini hangs on Nora‘s every word as she tells him of Luz‘s rebellious days at the Chilean catholic school where they first met. She eludes to a mischievous ability Luz had developed to influence their classmates’ thinking, and a seance that may or may not have had a tragic end. All the while, Nora continues to push Dr Loomis into a more vulnerable state, seemingly un-phased by a scary amount of drugs and alcohol.
We quickly realize that Nora is more than she appears and has targeted the unlucky doctor because he will soon be meeting Luz at the police station. What ensues is an eerie and (literally) hypnotic dive into the mind of Luz. As she walks investigators through the events of the previous night, the interrogation devolves into a chilling nightmare that engulfs the room and everyone in it.
The brilliance of Luz is in how the film presents Luz’s hypnotic state. We aren’t dropped into scenes with a voiceover from Dr. Rossini to remind us that we are walking through a memory, and we don’t have unimaginable nightmare sequences that break reality. Instead, we watch Luz as our other characters would see her. She pretends to smoke and fiddle with a radio that isn’t there, unaware she is reliving the events of the previous night. But as we progress, and more characters from her past appear, we begin to see them interact with the space. Reality bends to Dr. Rossini‘s will and through glimpses into Luz’s mind, we begin to better understand the complex relationship between her and her demons.
Shot on film as the thesis project for director Tilman Singer and producer Dario Mendez Acosta, Luz is a gorgeous film with a dangerous atmosphere that you cannot escape. With a large portion of the audio presented through the headphones of our investigators, you sometimes feel that what you’re watching should be labeled “evidence”. These choices, combined with a killer synth score, give Luz a retro vibe that is feels more authentic than any of the 80’s inspired movies within arms reach.
“Luz will remind you that there are still great supernatural stories to be told.”
There is a supernatural force that looms over Luz, threatening to destroy her while she is at her most vulnerable. Unaware of the danger surrounding her, Luz talks through memories to an entity stoking a fire that is sure to engulf her very soul. After decades of repeated themes and revisited tropes, Luz breathes new life into the genre like a darkness that has dominated the space. It is a strong debut from talented filmmakers with a clear love for possession films, and Luz will remind you that there are still great supernatural stories to be told.
Luz celebrated its North American premiere at the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal on July 20th. The film was welcomed by a sold out crowd and was acquired by the recently formed Yellow Veil Pictures alongside The Ranger and A Man in The Dark.
Check out more of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantasia Fest Coverage here, and be sure to sound off with your thoughts over on Twitter and in our Facebook Group!