Color, 2018, 114 mins. 45 secs.
Directed by Gonzalo Calzada
Starring Sofía Del Tuffo, Marta Lubos, Pedro Merlo, Malena Sánchez, Francisco Donovan Artsploitation Films (Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 HD/NTSC) / WS (2.35:1)
A hotbed of horror films in recent years, Argentina has been turning supernatural offerings like Terrified, White Coffin, and You Shall Not Sleep. Among these is director Gonzalo Calzada, whose Resurrection turned out to be a hit in 2015. His follow-up film, Luciferina, is a trippy addition to the long tradition of Satanic-themed horror films, pitting its forces of light and darkness in a female-centered way that sets it apart a bit from your standard exorcist tales.
Returning home to pay her last respects to her father on his deathbed, young virginal novice Natalia (Del Tuffo) comes equipped with a necklace talisman given to her by one of the kitchen staff. Natalia has an unusual gift that makes her eyes go opaque as she perceives the aura around living things, which of course comes in handy later. Upon arrival she finds out that dad was put into a coma during a violent attack by her recently deceased mother, a painter of incredibly macabre imagery. Natalia's goth sister, Ángela (Sánchez), claims the house has fallen under a dark influence since her departure and has started to run with a low class crowd including her boyfriend, Mauro, (Donovan). Thanks to a traumatic failed pregnancy, Ángela has become convinced that their life is a lie and someone else is their parents -- something she plans to uncover with a mystical rite in the jungle region of Tigre. As Natalia is plagued with increasingly sinister visions, they all head out on their mission where the ingestion of a mystical plant unlocks a horrific string of events that could be hallucinations or the actual work of the devil.
Though insanely overlong at just under two hours, Luciferina pulls out all the stops where it counts with at least four climaxes including a bonkers devil-fighting sex scene on an altar that has to be a cinematic first. The preponderance of CGI gets overdone in a few spots (especially some glowing light effects and shots of a fetus in varying stages of development), but there are some nice skin-crawling moments too including an early cockroach attack in the shower. The film doesn't exactly try to reinvent the genre wheel here as it ticks off a lot of the Satanic boxes including candle rituals complete with a big goat mask, pentagrams on pregnant bellies, and slobbering fanged possession cases; however, the ultimate answer to Natalia's family mystery is an interesting one and winds things up on an unorthodox note. The whole city vs. countryside angle is also an interesting flourish with the contrast in settings making for an evocative way to push the narrative forward, and while the actors don't have anything strenuous to do, Del Tuffo manages to anchor things with a believable performance that calls for her to go to some unusual places in that final stretch.
Artsploitation brings Luciferina to separate Blu-ray and DVD editions with a pin-sharp transfer that looks slick and bright throughout, sometimes at odds with the dark nature of the story that could have used a slightly grittier look. The film can be played with lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 or 2.0 Spanish options (both excellent quality) with removable English or English SDH subtitles. A trailer is the sole extra.