Luciferina, which loosely translated means “bringer of light”, tells the story of 19-year-old Natalia who travels to a small island in search of a mythical plant that is believed to have the power of opening the door to the spirit realm. Instead of finding the answers she’s hoping for, Natalia and her friends discover something evil. The spiritual-based horror film is the latest from Argentinian director Gonzalo Calzada (The Clairvoyant’s Prayer and Resurrection).
Stefanía Koessl, Malena Sánchez, Victoria Carreras, Sofia Del Tuffo, and Pedro Merlo star. Overall, the cast does a good job with the material they have been given. The standout performance in Luciferina is from lead Stefanía Koessl, who has a strong on-screen presence. After seeing the work she does in the film, I am genuinely interested in seeing what she does next.
Let me start by saying that I’m not usually a huge fan of the Satanic/possession sub-genre of horror. In my opinion, rarely do movies within the category bring anything new to the table. However, the description of Luciferina immediately caught my attention. The buildup to the movie’s midpoint is atmospheric, but slow. Other than a couple of nightmares from Natalia, the first half of the movie is sparse on any real scares. Once the group of friends finally come face-to-face with the shaman that leads them on the sacred rite, the pace of the story picks up. But by that point, the movie has already met its stride.
Sections of the movie are tedious due to the inclusion of several cardboard cutout archetypal characters (at no fault to the actors portraying them, mind you). There are at least two from the central group of friends that could have easily been taken out of the screenplay altogether and the end result would have been more or less the same. I had a difficult time understanding the need for their inclusion in the story. Potential victims, I guess.
Putting the muddled characters aside, Luciferina‘s visual presentation is by far the film’s strongest point. With the use of outstanding camera work, the beginning of the story is set up in a big way. During the opening scenes it seemed as if I was settling in to watch an art-house style film instead of a standard possession movie. I would have been completely okay with that and, in fact, it was something that I was hoping the forthcoming horror elements would build off of. Admittedly, this is the first film of director Gonzalo Calzada’s that I’ve seen, but I would be interested in catching his prior work. I get the impression that with a stronger, more focused script, Calzada could deliver something really good.
The CGI, makeup, and gore effects in Luciferina are all blended seamlessly together and are effective enough to serve their purpose. During the second half of the movie, the wise decision is made to abandon a lot of the wide exterior shots in favor of more close quarters. This is the section where the story shifts to Natalia‘s internal struggle and it should feel more closed in. This is also where most of the scares and gore take place but, sadly, this is also where the problems arise.
What we get in the latter half of Luciferina is pretty much a by-the-numbers possession horror flick. What initially intrigued me about the film and sold me on it was the description –
Natalia is a 19-year-old novice who reluctantly returns home to say goodbye to her dying father. But when she meets up with her sister and her friends, she decides instead to travel the jungle in search of a mystical plant. There, instead of pleasure, they find a world of Black Masses, strange pregnancies, bloody deaths and for the nun herself, a sexually violent clash with the Devil himself.
It seemed like something different. Something new. My biggest disappointment with the film is that it didn’t payoff on that promise. The film touches on a lot of topics ranging from self discovery to accepting one’s fate, but it doesn’t all seem to come together into one cohesive piece. That being said, I did enjoy Luciferina enough that I plan to check out Calzada’s previous work.
Luciferina will be available on DVD and Bluray beginning November 20th and hits streaming services on December 4th. Have you seen either of Calzada’s other films, The Clairvoyant’s Prayer or Resurrection? Let us know on Twitter, or on our Horror Fiends of Nightmare on Film Street Facebook group.