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Arrow Video FrightFest 2018: Luciferina review

A strong first half gives way to a disappointing climax in this Argentinian horror.

Luciferina
Credit: Buffalo Films

19-year-old Natalia (Sofía Del Tuffo) left behind her family to pursue her calling as a nun at a remote convent. When news reaches her that her parents have been in a terrible accident, killing her mother and leaving her father seriously injured, Natalia returns home to visit. Her troubled sister Ángela (Malena Sánchez) confides in Natalia that she doesn’t believe their parents are their biological parents and she asks her to join her on a trip to partake in a pagan ritual that will give her the answers she seeks. Natalia reluctantly joins Ángela and her friends but soon finds her faith tested and her life in danger.

Luciferina is the latest film from Argentinian writer/director Gonzalo Calzada, who found critical acclaim with Resurrection the most-watched horror movie in Argentina’s history. Envisaged as the first of a trilogy, Luciferina tackles oft-covered subject matter but attempts to put a new spin on them. Films about the devil, possession and religion are frequent in the horror genre so I was interested to see what Calzada had to say with Luciferina.

Luciferina

Credit: Buffalo Films

The film starts off slow but strong as Natalia leaves the convent and returns home. It’s quickly established that her sister Ángela is lost in life having turned to drugs under the influence of her abusive boyfriend Mauro (Francisco Donovan). We also learn that Natalia may not be the young and innocent girl she’s portrayed in the film’s opening moments and that she’s battling her sexual desires in a bid to stay true to her commitment to God. At first she isn’t interested in joining her sister’s quest but she’s convinced when she sees how Ángela is treated by Mauro, a man she realises is a danger to them all.

So far, so good but things start to unravel once the group reaches their destination and partakes in the pagan ritual. Believing it will sort out each of their issues and essentially rid them of the darker parts of their souls, the group willingly drinks a concoction made from a mind-altering plant. Of course, things don’t go at all to plan and Natalia finds herself locked in a battle with the devil, who takes on the form of her potential love interest Abel (Pedro Merlo). From this point on the film starts to feel drawn out and overly long. The scenes between Natalia and Abel quickly get repetitive and I felt like the film could have benefitted from being around 15 to 20 minutes shorter.

The climax to the film is both disturbingly sexual and a little bit baffling. I don’t want to give too much away but I was left scratching my head at how Natalia’s battle reached the finishing line. What had been an intense, atmospheric and engaging slow burn until that point, turns into a balls-to-the-wall erotic thriller. For me, it was a jarring change in tone and I wasn’t sure I completely bought the film’s resolution. I found it a bit of a let-down and it changed my opinion of what had come before it.

Luciferina

Credit: Buffalo Films

There is little to fault with the cast. Sofía Del Tuffo gives a bold turn as Natalia and she’s impressively fearless. Pedro Merlo matches Del Tuffo in the film’s second half, and they spar well together on screen. Some of the supporting characters could have done with being fleshed out a little more but that’s a minor complaint as this really is Natalia’s story.

While initially showing a lot of promise, Lucifering left me a little bit bewildered and frustrated by the end. The final scene felt a little bit thrown in to leave you hanging for a sequel and the climax wasn’t really fitting for the film. There is lots to admire here from the performances through to Calzada’s direction but ultimately Luciferina didn’t deliver on its premise, which was deeply disappointing.

Cast: Sofía Del Tuffo, Marta Lubos, Pedro Merlo, Malena Sánchez, Francisco Donovan, Stefanía Koessl, Gastón Cocchiarale Director: Gonzalo Calzada Writer: Gonzalo Calzada Certificate: TBC Duration: 114 mins Released by: Buffalo Films

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