If nothing else, I have to give credit to LUCIFERINA for managing to find a way to show an exorcism onscreen that I can not recall ever seeing before. That said, too much of the rest of the film is made up of genre bits and pieces that I have seen many times over. Add in the film’s weird vibe of feeling like a propaganda recruitment film for the Catholic Church (complete with a heavy pro-life message) that happens to include healthy doses of gore and an extended, surprisingly explicit sex scene and you have a Satanic Panic horror flick that is defiantly chaotic while moving at a snail’s pace.
Natalia (Sofía Del Tuffo), a troubled young woman training to be a nun, receives word that her mother has been killed in an accident. Reluctantly, she returns to the home she fled years earlier to find her father a catatonic mess confined to his bed and her younger sister a junkie in an abusive relationship. Even worse, she is forced to put up with her sister’s mostly unpleasant friends (with the exception of the shy Abel, who seems to be nursing a crush on Natalia) as they tease her about her religious beliefs and being a virgin.
After several repetitive scenes of Natalia taking shit from her sister’s friends while they occasionally appear to her with an otherworldly glow behind them, the film finally kicks into gear nearly an hour in as the group travels to an isolated island to take part in a ritual conducted by a shaman. Natalia tags along ostensibly to make sure her sister is okay, but clearly she has questions of her own about strange dreams she has been having and why she has the “glow-vision.” Not surprisingly, combining a ritual that involves the ingestion of a hallucinogenic potion with a would-be nun having creepy dreams while seeing people glow…is not a good idea.
Once the ritual goes wrong in some grisly ways, LUCIFERINA does gain some traction with flashbacks to Natalia’s intense supernatural birth, a Black Mass, lots of damage to eyeballs, and an inevitable “chosen one” story. Add in the Catholic recruitment feel, a plot that starts to come off as a YA adaptation gone sideways, and the very sex-heavy exorcism scene and the film does go to some thankfully batshit places.
But while going batshit does inject some entertainment value, that does not necessarily translate into a good movie. The first hour of the film drags at an unmercifully slow pace as writer/director Gonzalo Calzada takes forever to set up the plot and Natalia and Abel’s stories. With a final scene that implies (completely out of the blue) that there are two other young women in the world like Natalia, making this the first part of a trilogy, I assume some of the meandering story threads from the very long first act will be picked up in later films. Unfortunately, as those possible future plot threads stand now in LUCIFERINA, they get the film off to a very rough start that makes getting to the nuttier tone and story elements of the third act a real chore.
To Calzada’s credit, the film looks very polished (with the exception of some bad CGI shots of a baby in the womb), he finds an intriguing recurring image (that is so clever I won’t spoil it in case anyone is interested in seeing it) in the first act that initially seems like it will tie the film together, and there is style to spare during the crazed climax. I just wish he had gotten to the point faster because I would actually look forward to two more films in this series, instead of feeling jerked around for the majority of this one.
–Matt Wedge (@MovieNerdMatt)