Luz: Flower of Evil (2019) was billed as a horror film in the vein of The Witch (2015) and Midsommar (2019), and it manages to give strong vibes of both these films in the opening sequence. Between bright, colourful shots of the natural beauty that surrounds the remote community where the film is set are stark contrasting shots of darkness, bones in the woods, and a goat. There’s always a goat, eh?
Luz: Flower of Evil follows El Senor, a preacher in the small community, and his three daughters. Their mother, the titular Luz, died recently, and the family are still mourning her. They buried her body under a tree which doesn’t bloom. El Senor claims that when the new Messiah finds the village, the tree will finally bloom, and good times will return.
Early on in the film, El Senor steals a young boy from his mother, before assaulting the mother and warning her to leave his land. He claims this boy is Jesus and the villagers should rejoice. However, there are five handmade crosses up on the hill, which show this isn’t the first time El Senor has done this, and the whole endeavour usually just results in a dead child.
Meanwhile, El Senor’s three daughters, or angels as everyone brands them, are struggling with their faith in both their father and God. Due to the fact they are seen as angels, are the preacher’s daughters, and appear to be the only young women in the village, they have a lot of put up with when it comes to judgement from other villagers and their father. When one daughter, Uma, sneaks off into the woods with a boy, he punches her for being on her period because “angles do not bleed.” It is also the daughters who suffer the most at the hands of their father when his faith starts to slip, and he starts to question his actions as we reach the final act of the film.
Overall, I just didn’t know how to feel about this film. It feels very much like a film that fits in with films like Midsommar and The Wicker Man (1973) but a lot less likeable. El Senor is an entirely unlikeable character, and there’s no way to excuse any of his actions. The film is also rough going to for the small number of female characters, with various assaults taking place, the women being forced into situations they don’t want to be, and then basically having no say over what goes on in their life.
At 104 minutes, this film also felt incredibly long. There are a lot of scenes of the daughters doing housework or hanging up the washing, as well as a lot of flashbacks which are shot as though they are memories, even though they more often than not feature scenes that the character featured was not present for. It’s a hard slog as we’re treated to various close-ups of El Senor with differing levels of muck, gore, and spit all over his face. I feel like it all could have been trimmed down significantly, and this may have helped keep up the building tension around what El Senor was going to do next, rather than constantly letting it subside.
I came away from the film not really sure what happened with the ending, but only that the whole thing left me feeling incredibly bleak. Religious horror can be hard to get right, and I feel like a lack of even a basic level of compassion for El Senor made the film very unenjoyable. Unlike films like The Wicker Man where you can understand the warped logic that has perhaps lead characters to act a certain way, I just found everything El Senor did utterly reprehensible.
The only positive point for me in the film was the beautiful cinematography. The locations the film where the film was shot were spectacular, from the serene lake, the epic waterfall, and even the dark woods littered with animal carcasses, everything felt perfectly chosen and shot in a way which highlighted the natural beauty all around us. It’s just a shame I didn’t feel as enthusiastic about the rest of the film.