LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL (REVIEW)
Dir. Juan Diego Escobar Alzate
Reviewer. Dan Cook
An exceptionally beautiful yet uncompromisingly disturbing watch, LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL expertly uses the pastoral traditions of folk horror as well as the twisted iconography of cult master Alejandro Jodorowsky to tell a deeply uncomfortable tale of religious fanaticism and patriarchal dominance in the Colombian mountains. The directorial debut of Juan Diego Escobar Alzate, this strange and often repellant parable follows an anachronistic Christian cult, kept isolated from the rest of the world by a gruff yet fiercely devout leader known as ”El Señor” (Conrado Osario) - a widowed farmer who not only believes that his three beautiful daughters are literal angels but that he also has the deity-like power to invoke the spirit of the messiah in the body of a child. However, when a new boy is shepherded into the community to serve as the Christ-like figure, so too is a wave of destructive violence and very soon the powers of El Señor called into question by his increasingly paranoid followers who believe that it is the Devil and not God who has taken up residence in the village.
Shot with spectacular grandeur by cinematographer Nicolas Caballero Arenas, LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL consistently dazzles, with gorgeously surreal imagery of the land, the sun and the stars lending the film an almost mythological palette that is utterly devoid of realism yet loaded with theological wonder and symbology. Meanwhile, the hypnotic melodies of American composer Brian Heater combine with the breathy, Malick-esque voiceover by actress Andrea Esquivel to create an uncanny atmosphere of untold threat that is reflected not only in the strikingly unusual visuals but also in the intensity of the performances, especially that of leading man Conrado Osario whose morally troubled pastor stands out as one of the most terrifyingly enigmatic figures in recent horror history.
But while it looks and sounds absolutely mesmerising, LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL isn’t afraid to venture into some very dark places and the final 30 minutes is a shrieking firestorm of religious-inspired insanity, with one particularly vicious act of father against daughter brutality leaving me speechless with pure shock. Like most arthouse pictures, it is undoubtedly a slow burn but for those willing to wait it out, they may very well find LUZ: THE FLOWER OF EVIL to be one of the most troubling yet awe-inspiring viewing experiences they are ever likely to have. A truly unforgettable and challenging masterpiece.