Luciferina [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Artsploitation Films
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (18th November 2018).
The Film

When novice Natalia (Sofía Del Tuffo) is informed by the Mother Superior (Victoria Carreras) that there has been an accident at home in which her mother died, she is reluctant to return home but is admonished that the Catholic school "is not a hideout." Arriving home, she discovers that much has changed in two years. Her sister Ángela (Malena Sánchez) is doing drugs and involved in an abusive relationship with violent Mauro (Francisco Donovan), her parents were no longer sleeping together and her mother had retreated to her attic art studio and rarely came out. One night, she slashed her wrists and used the blood to paint. Her husband (Vando Villamil) tried to stop her and was injured and now lies in a hospital bed in the attic in a state of shock. Ángela carries a deep resentment for her sister abandoning them to pursue her vocation, but she nevertheless wants her to accompany her, Mauro, psychology students Mara (The Clan's Stefanía Koessl) and Osvaldo (Gastón Cocchiarale), and dropout Abel (Pedro Merlo) – who suffers from a nervous system condition that he hopes the sacred plant can cure – to an island near Tigre to see a shaman who uses a sacred plant called the "rope of the dead" to reveal hidden by allowing the spirit to leave the body without the body dying. Their friends believe that Ángela wants to use the plant to "cure" Mauro of his rage – unbeknownst to her, he has already threatened Natalia that he will kill Ángela if she convinces her to leave him – but she confides to Natalia that she knows that they were both adopted and wants to use the plant to discover where they came from. Natalia is reluctant to go, but a series of nightmarish apparitions of mysterious woman depicted in her "unterine" paintings compels her to accompany the group to the island which is the home of a sanitarium that was closed after the nuns alleged abuse of the patients and abortions. While exploring the island, Natalia comes across a shrine she recognizes from her nightmares and an old woman warns her that the moon is bad for what she and her friends are about to do, and that "one of them is lying." Mauro flies into a rage when he is told by the Shaman (Tomás Lipan) that he cannot drink and storms off while the others ingest a drink distilled from the sacred plant. Each of them have violent physical reactions to the drug, and Natalia is concerned for her sister until she begins experiencing her own vision in which she sees the woman of her nightmares Clara (Desirée Gloria Salgueiro) heavily pregnant and escaping a Black Mass in which she and her baby were to be sacrificed. The sanitarium's Mother Superior Sister Gregoria (The Motorcycle Diaries's Marta Lubos) attempts to simultaneously deliver the baby and exorcise the mother of the demon. To her horror, Natalia – possessed of the ability to see auras around other people – realizes that she was the baby that survived and that the devil wants from her the baby he is owed and one of her sister's friends is not who (or what) they say they are.

Luciferina is an Argentinian variation on the Catholic horror genre that began with The Exorcist and The Omen more so than the blackly satirical Rosemary's Baby, and had a brief resurgence just around the millennium with the like of Stigmata, The Prophecy series, and The Eighteenth Angel; indeed, the film seems more indebted to those later entries than more recent stuff like The Nun. The production boom in Argentina means that the film has good production value, not just in the natural settings but the photography, set design, and the special effects (even some dodgy CGI is of a higher standard than one expects of a non-studio horror film); however, its resemblance to a Hollywood genre effort also extends to a heavy reliance on jump scares and surround sound jolts while scenes of possession and exorcism are more technically proficient but no less derivative than anything since The Exorcist (a charge of which The Conjuring is equally guilty). Director Gonzalo Calzada (Resurrection) demonstrates visual assuredness, and when the editing slows down, a penchant for almost painterly compositions. Performances are mostly functional, but Tuffo and Sánchez get some moments to demonstrate depth and even the complexity of a fraught sibling relationship (a luxury extended solely to the two of them during the extended setup of this 114 minute film) before the usual horror theatrics. The exorcism-by-boinking "climax" is novel but the ambiguous ending is a letdown since it seems to be the setup for further entries in the Saga: La Trinidad de las Vírgenes which is supposed to include entries titled Immaculata and Gotica. Luciferina is technically well-made Catholic horror but ultimately brings nothing new to the table.
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Video

No technical specifications are available for the shooting and mastering of the film, but Artsploitation Films' 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen pressed Blu-ray provides a good encode thanks to the film's slick lensing and grading on par with other contemporary Argentinian productions.
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Audio

Audio options include lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Spanish-language tracks. The surround option is the way to go, although the lossy encode is perhaps not such a big deal in the absence of any competing release for comparison, and may be haveen a cost-cutting choice but was also a good idea to provide more bitrate to the video on this BD25 of a near-two hour film. Subtitling options include English and English SDH.
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Extras

The sole extra is the film's trailer (1:59). There are no start-up trailers, but this may also have been for space concerns. Some kind of interview or behind the scenes featurette would have been welcome, especially to provide context to the supposed saga of which the film is part.
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Overall

Luciferina is technically well-made Catholic horror but ultimately brings nothing new to the table.

 


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