Take a moment to imagine a cult; an isolated community far into the mountains of Colombia, as far removed from modern society as can be. Without saying much else, you’re probably already imagining a male figure at the head, who uses his followers in unspeakably abusive ways. Congratulations, you’re right and you’ll be forgiven for thinking that such a tale is a little old hat. It is. Alas, we have Luz: The Flower of Evil.
Impressively put together with only a shoestring budget and a tight, 18-day schedule to work with, director Juan Diego Escobar Alzate excels in constructing a unique vision into which his small cast dive fearlessly with both feet. Sadly, the same cannot be said regarding the narrative or thematic sides of the project, leaving us with an incoherent, occasionally misogynistic, slog. Conrado Osorio is El Señor, the leader, who brings forth (and imprisons) a young boy he claims to be the messiah. With this discovery comes destruction, violence and apparently an exploration of the duality between good and evil. In reality, if Luz explores anything at all, it’s how men abuse women and the mental gymnastics they pull to support their position. Unfortunately, the film delights in showing such mistreatment and does little to explore beneath the surface regarding how and why these women are in this situation or what they’re feeling as they live it.
Coupled with a feeble score, cartoonishly flimsy dialogue and nauseatingly colour-corrected imagery (although one could argue that the over-perfection of the cinematography works as a meta-textual example on the theme of duality), Alzate’s inexperience and distrust of audience intelligence become the status-quo as the film lumbers through a drab second act. Repetitive dialogue, uncomfortable over-acting and redundant flash-backs will test the patience of viewers everywhere, before we climax in what will be hard to top as the most unnecessary moment of violence of the decade. All in all, Luz immeasurably outstays its welcome.
Promotional material comparisons to The Witch and last year’s Midsommar are so bafflingly wide of the mark that one can only assume they began life as self-aggrandising propaganda. Once it’s all over, you’ll be left to decide whether to think about how such a disaster came to be – or simply pretend it didn’t. Choose the latter.