If asked how many Argentinian horror films I have watched, I would be hard pressed to recall any… That was until I caught Luciferina, one of the Arrow Frightfest 2018 films, directed (and written) by Gonzalo Calzada.
Though subtitled (at times, badly) the film quickly envelops its audience in a curious setting as Natalia (Sofia Del Tuffo) carries out her daily duties at a nunnery. From early on it’s apparent that Natalia has a hidden gift, though it’s not quite clear what it actually is at first. At short notice she is forced to leave her vocation after receiving the news that her mother has died and her father is gravely ill.
Returning to her home to tend for her Dad isn’t as straight forward as one might imagine thanks to the negativity in the household. Her older sister Ángela seems to resent everyone and it’s immediately obvious that her father has a dark side that was somehow to blame for their mother’s death along with other bad feeling between the brood.
To remedy the problem, Ángela suggests that the sisters travel with friends to a remote temple to seek enlightenment and release from their demons. Reluctantly, Natalia goes along, driven by the need to protect her sister and possibly find out more about a sickly but magnetic boy named Abel.
But as the group embarks on their spiritual journey, things take a distressing turn as the ceremony unlocks something evil within the group that is fixated with Natalia, leaving her with no choice but to explore her past in order to devise a way to survive.
Luciferina is a wonderfully stylish film that oozes dark ambiance and classic Giallo elements, making it a joy to watch and helping to deliver a tale which is as scary as it is beautiful.
Sofia Del Tuffo is an encapsulating lead, exuding innocence and naive fragility, as her character is helplessly carried toward her destiny by the unrelenting flow of dark energy that resides at the ancient temple that she and her friends mistook for a sanctuary.
As you get taken on their hallucinogenic journey to the underworld it’s easy to feel lost and disorientated as Natalia looks to escape unsure who to trust. These feelings are emphasised with clever cinematography, excellent use of sound and a dramatic general atmosphere that has been conjured by the production team.
Performances outside of the lead are equally strong, with each actor playing their role with conviction, particularly Natalia’s wayward sister, played by Malena Sánchez.
Horror films based on satanic rituals and the conflict of religion and raw human emotions are surprisingly common, but Luciferina manages to raise eyebrows, surprisingly offering something a little different and encapsulating – even for the seasoned horror fan.