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21 Jul 11:00am

Luz: The Flower of Evil review – arty horror strangely mutes its women

The Guardian
Colombian horror about a micro-cult is rather too fascinated by the barbarity of its leader, rather than the daughters he has hidden from the world This bold and disturbing arthouse horror from first-time feature director Juan Diego Escobar Alzate feels like it could be set sometime in the 19th century. It’s about a tiny religious cult based in the wildly beautiful Colombian mountains: the group’s leader is El Señor (Conrado Osorio), a farmer who looks like a cowboy in the Clint Eastwood mould, with a macho growl; his trio of daughters wear frontier prairie dresses. But we must be closer to the present day: in an early scene the eldest, 23-year-old Laila (Andrea Esquivel), brings him a 1980s cassette player that she has found in the woods and she is spellbound by this unknown contraption. El Señor says the devil lurks inside. It’s an intriguing set-up, and cinematographer Nicolás Caballero Arenas shoots the lush landscape through what looks like a trippy filter; blazing sunsets and garish rainbows give the film a quasi-fairytale, almost surreal feel. El Señor has raised his daughters in total ignorance of the world outside their community of a dozen or so. But the film is depressingly thin on the women; often it seems more interested in arranging them in arty tableaux than investigating the way that isolation has shaped their personalities and how they see the world. The wafty Terrence Malick-ish voiceover written for Laila doesn’t exactly fill in the psychological gaps.
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