October 18, 2020
by Carla Hay
Directed by Juan Diego Escobar Alzate
Spanish with subtitles
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed rural area of Colombia, the horror film “Luz: The Flower of Evil” features an all-Latino cast of characters representing the working-class and poor.
Culture Clash: A madman believes that he and other local villagers will have salvations and a tree where his dead wife is buried will blossom if he finds the Messiah, so he kidnaps teenage boys until he finds the one whom he thinks is the real Messiah.
Culture Audience: “Luz: The Flower of Evil” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching artsy horror films that have disturbing images.
“Luz: The Flower of Evil” (written and directed by Juan Diego Escobar Alzate) takes viewers down a deranged path into the mind of a madman who has a cult-leader type of hold on his small group of followers. The movie takes place in an unnamed, isolated rural area in Colombia where no automobiles are seen anywhere and the villagers dress in a way that doesn’t indicate that they are aware of the latest fashion trends. However, it seems as if the period of time of this story is likely set in the 1980s, because there’s a 1980s-styled portable cassette player that plays an important role throughout the movie.
In the beginning of “Luz: The Flower of Evil,” a woman in her early 20s named Laila (played by Andrea Esquivel) is being scolded by her father El Señor (played by Conrado Osorio), because she found a portable cassette player in the woods. El Señor is convinced that the cassette player is evil, which is the first indication that he’s crazy and out of touch with reality.
El Señor lectures Laila about this cassette player, after he briefly plays a tape in it: “It’s impossible that you found this in the woods. The devil doesn’t live in the woods. This may be one of his tricks. What we just heard is the devil’s chant. His music. He acts in the most beautiful ways. No one knows the devil more than I do. And I cannot tolerate this.”
As El Señor is rambling on about this cassette player, Laila secretly hides a cassette behind her back. Will she play it later? Of course she will. Later in the story, she goes out in the woods and plays the cassette, which is a recording of instrumental music with a flute. She hears the music and becomes fascinated by it, as if she’s never heard this music before in her life.
Meanwhile, it becomes apparent very quickly that El Señor has an oppressive rule of his household. The other residents of this ramshackle wood house are Laila and two younger women who are not related to Laila and El Señor, but were taken in by El Señor’s late wife and treated like members of the family. It’s not clear when the wife died, but El Señor tells the three women as they all hold hands over the dining table: “She is part of you. She never said goodbye.”
These two other young women have been raised as sisters to Laila. They are Uma (played by Yuri Vargas), who looks like she’s in her mid-20s, and Zion (played by Sharon Guzman), who looks like she’s in her late teens. Zion is the most obedient and religious of the three, Uma is the most skeptical and rebellious, while Laila is somewhere in between. However, Laila fears her father so much that she’s more likely than not to blindly obey his orders.
One thing that Laila secretly disagrees with her father about is that cassette tape. She tells Uma and Zion about the tape and says, “I think there’s an angel trapped inside of this.” Laila also shares a ballerina music box with Uma and Zion. The music box was a gift from Laila’s mother.
How mentally unstable is El Señor? He believes that the tree where his late wife is buried will blossom if he can find the Messiah, who El Señor says will save them all. How does El Señor go about finding the Messiah? He has kidnapped a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy (played by Johan Camacho), who looks about 13 or 14 years old. The boy is kept chained by his neck in the pig pen in the family’s front yard.
Viewers of this movie know that the boy has been kidnapped because El Señor brutally rapes the boy’s mother who has come to the home to rescue him, and then he orders her to never come back to the house again. Even as El Señor’s three daughters witness this horrible crime taking place from inside the house, they stand by and do nothing because they are convinced that El Señor knows what he’s doing is an act of God. It’s a very twisted mindset that shows how much El Señor has brainwashed the people close to him.
The boy, whom El Señor has given the name Messiah or Jesús, remains mute and expressionless throughout the entire story, even when he sees his mother being raped. Later in story, it’s revealed that he hasn’t eaten/refused food during the entire time he’s been held captive, which El Señor and his little cult believe is a sign that this boy must be the Messiah.
One day, when Laila goes to talk to this boy, it’s revealed that El Señor has kidnapped other boys before, all because he thinks they might be the Messiah. And when it because obvious that these other boys were not divine creatures but were human, El Señor got angry and said that these boys were imposter Messiahs who “tricked” him. It’s not stated what he did with these other boys, but it’s easy to assume what happened, since they are nowhere to be found. Laila says that one of the previous boys was was shivering from the cold, which indicated that he was human, because El Señor said that the real Messiah doesn’t get cold.
El Señor’s madness has also infected the thinking of some of the local villagers who believe everything he says, as if he’s a prophet. El Señor has told the villagers that his three daughters are angels, and he invites the local residents to see this new “Messiah” who is being held captive in the front yard. Two of those gullible villagers are Elias (played by Daniel Páez) and his son Adán (played by Jim Muñoz), who is in his mid-to-late 20s. Adán is a Peeping Tom who likes to watch Laila, Uma and Zion bathe underneath a waterfall, with the women being unaware that he watches.
One day, while Adán is being a voyeur watching the three women bathe, Elias happens to be with him. Adán remarks to Elias that women are better than angels because women have bodies. Out of the three women, Adán is also attracted to Uma the most. And the feeling might be mutual. Therefore, it comes as no surprise when Adán and Uma happen to be out in the woods together at night, something happens between them that sets off a chain of events that leads to more shocking and despicable acts.
“Luz: The Flower of Evil” is not an easy film to watch and should be avoided by sensitive viewers. The violence in the film isn’t gratuitous but it is realistic in showing how one person’s insanity can have horrendously toxic effects on others. Although all the actors do well in their roles, the ones that are the most compelling to watch are Osorio as El Señor and Vargas as Uma, because their characters are often in an unspoken power struggle. At times, the movie is slow-paced, but Alzate permeates the story with a tone of impending doom that never lets viewers forget that these people are under the evil psychological grip of El Señor.
It’s an invisible suffocation of their souls that they aren’t even aware that El Señor is inflicting on them until it might be too late. And that killing of the human spirit, in many ways, is a lot more terrifying than if a random murderer was on the loose. A strange outsider is more likely to be resisted rather than someone who’s considered a trusted leader. “Luz: the Flower of Evil” is the type of horror movie that skillfully and disturbingly shows how blind trust can be used as one of the worst weapons to get people to commit heinous acts.
Dark Sky Films and MPI Media released “Luz: The Flower of Evil” on digital, VOD and DVD on September 15, 2020.