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By Norman Gidney | December 16, 2018

Natalia is a nineteen-year-old novice who reluctantly returns home to say goodbye to her dying father. However, when she meets up with her sister and her friends, she decides instead to travel the jungle in search of a mystical plant.

If we are going strictly on what Luciferina teaches us, the way to address family estrangement is through a drug-fueled vision quest into the Amazon. Yes, the new Argentinian horror pic details the trials of young 19-year-old Natalia. Her occasional visions raise more than a few eyebrows amongst those at the convent where she is staying. Yet she is still tolerated on the hopes of her joining the sisterhood. It is only after her father becomes gravely ill that she feels the need to return home to say goodbye. This is probably the only time you will ever read these lines in a review, but things were better at the convent. Natalia arrives home, and all hell breaks loose.

Natalia arrives home, and all hell breaks loose.”

Dad is catatonic, her sister is dating an abusive psychopath, and everyone blames poor Natalia for not being the daughter/sister that she was supposed to be. Through recurring visions, Natalia gets the feeling that there is a far more sinister force that has laid waste to her family and is coming for her. Natalia decides that she and her sisters ought to take a road trip along with a group into the Amazon to find a shaman that offers ayahuasca meditations in an old church. With all of the family strife, dysfunction, and visions, a hallucinatory drug seems like the perfect idea.

The shaman administers the drugs to the kids through a soupy, brick red liquid as they all lay at the center of a ring of salt and candles and he reminds them that, even though they will see things that terrify them, to not be afraid. And finally, we are off. Luciferina focuses on the spiritual arch from young, docile girl to a full-on woman through a series of insane sequences that blur the line between reality and nightmares.

“…focuses on the spiritual arch from young, docile girl to a full-on woman through a series of insane sequences…”

Luciferina is a nicely made film but damned if I know what actually happened and why. This is coming from a guy who had a full interpretation of Mulholland Drive on first viewing. The film is competently acted, the shots are beautifully composed, yet there is a narrative thread that really seemed to have a hard time juggling more than one plot.  We can follow Natalia, easy. However, her family’s dark history and troubled sister are a little murky, to say the least.

I wanted to love Luciferina because there was a real sense of craftsmanship to the proceedings yet the story arcs seemed to suffer at the expense of other elements. Oh well, At least you get an overlong climactic sex scene on an altar, so there’s that.

Luciferina (2018) Written and directed by Gonzalo Calzada. Starring Victoria Carreras, Sofía Del Tuffo, Francisco Donovan, Chucho Fernández, Gastón Cocchiarale

4 out of 10 stars

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