LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL **** Colombia 2019 Dir: Juan Diego Escobar Alzate. 104 mins
There are horror films and films of horror … the difference can be slight or it can – in the case of Luz: The Flower of Evil – a Spanish language exploration into the dark side of god, the difference is astonishing.
The name ushered is back to the days of the declamatory titles of the Hammer or Amicus with Evil, Terror, Horror, and the like in the title but it’s the contradiction of the title that epitomizes the film. There are many flowers in this film watered with evil.
The plot offers the story of a religious leader of a small (dying-out) community in the mountains. Age of the extras, detailed dirt and disrepair all around, and basic fear in the faces of all parishioners lends us to see that El Senor – played with stark realism by Conrado Osorio – is not doing a good job. Here is where theatre of horror as opposed to horror theatre steps in. Are we looking at a spiritual leader possessed by evil spirits or a man descending into madness at being inadequate as a husband, father, and leader? El Senor insists that a boy he had taken from the boys mother (through graphic and ultra violent means) is the new Christ and will save the town but he proceeds to torture the boy as a test. Here again we are presented with the question of the boy being holy or terrified. The emerging sexuality of El senor’s daughters are also presented as pubescent feelings or the aroma of witchcraft. Even performances offered up the dual question: Osorio’s performance was presented with such stark realism and depth of emotion as to wonder if he was battling evil or obeying it.
His daughters – Sharon Guzman, Andrea Esquivel, and Marcela Robledo – all compelling presences, could certainly not be mistaken in any way for malevolent. We meet three terrified young women – terrified of life, their father, and their sexuality. Three daughters does imply the pagan, Maid, Mother, Crone image (especially what happens in the film). Jim Munoz as the “baby Jesus” didn’t need to do anything but stare with a virginal blonde countenance throughout. His possible conversation with a goat however, does speak volumes.
In terms of the film itself, writer/director Juan Diego Escobar Alzate gave us an incredibly stunning visual of beauty v ugliness with amazing colors utilized on a breathtaking mountainous location juxtaposed with a claustrophobic cabin of the family and even clearings in the aforementioned mountains that seemed like the darkened cellar of any horror film.
The film is not for everyone. Subtitles can impede the gorgeous locale and engrossing acting; the terror – while Satanically implied – is more dramatic than horrific; and the agony looks very real.
But as said at the onset. This is a film of horror. Knowing that going in, you will be very pleased.
Review by Jay Michaels