Luz: The Flower of Evil was shot in two and a half weeks under the simpler title of Luz and renamed to avoid confusion with Tilman Singer’s film Luz. It’s part of the folk horror revival of the last few years. A revival that includes films like The Witch, Midsommar and Hagazussa. Its cousin the acid western has even reappeared in films like Day of the Stranger. Writer/director Juan Diego Escobar Alzate channels Alexandro Jodorowsky to unite the two genres with this, his debut feature.
A major hit on the festival circuit Luz: The Flower of Evil takes a different path from most other folk horror films by not involving older pagan beliefs. It centers itself on Christianity or at least one particular interpretation of it. Alzate then uses that to spin his tale of faith, nature and corruption.
El Señor (Conrado Osario, Sniper: Ultimate Kill), is the leader of a small cult in the mountains of Colombia. His wife, Luz, died years ago leaving him with their daughter Laila (Andrea Esquivel) and two adopted daughters Uma (Yuri Vargas, Revenge Strategy), and Zion (Sharon Guzman). All three of whom are considered angels by his followers.
El Señor brings forth a blonde-haired, blue-eyed young boy who he calls Jesus (Johan Camacho) and proclaims to be the Messiah. However, this brings forth events that seem more like punishment than a blessing. This causes some of his flock to question him. And as he deals with them, he fails to see what’s going on under his own roof as his daughters reach puberty and womanhood.
This is a slow-burning mindfuck of a movie, one that demands your constant attention and not just because it’s subtitled. With multiple points of view and voice-overs, It’s easy to get confused or miss details as Luz: The Flower of Evil slowly reveals them. It’s also easy to get distracted by Nicolás Caballero Arenas’ beautiful cinematography. The scenery is so beautiful and beautifully shot that it can, in combination with Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet on the soundtrack, take your attention from the subtitles if you’re not careful. And you need to be careful because the impact of Luz: The Flower of Evil depends on you putting all the pieces together.
For me, many of those questions revolve around Laila and the old cassette player. How did it get there? Why does it still work? And why does her father hate music, especially the soothing and beautiful piece on the cassette? Yes, questions about El Señor’s treatment of his new messiah, and the fates of the previous ones are important. But this ancient piece of technology is, arguably, the true catalyst to the film’s events.
Juan Diego Escobar Alzate leaves you with a lot of questions to answer when Luz: The Flower of Evil is over. Is God present in this village? Is there an agent of evil at work here? Was there ever anything holy for it to subvert if there is? And could we, as mere mortals, tell the difference?
Luz: The Flower of Evil is available on digital platforms and on DVD from Dark Sky Films in the United States and Raven Banner Entertainment in Canada. It debuts on the Shudder streaming service on December 21st. You can check the film’s Facebook page for more info.