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Luz review : slow moving but with some very stylistic pleasures to be found

A young woman walks into a police station in a very slow wide shot, the camera pointed straight on in a very clinical, detached way. She approaches the reception bench where a cop is busily shuffling paperwork, turns and moves down the room to a vending machine to stare at it. Barely minutes have passed and you’re immediately sure this isn’t a horror film either from Hollywood or influenced by Hollywood styles.

The woman, Luz (Luana Velis) is a taxi driver to whom something terrible has happened earlier in the night, but before we get even an inkling of her story we move to a couple, the sultry Nora (Julia Riedler), seducing a man in a bar named Dr Rossini (Jan Bluthart) by telling him a story about the rebellious girl (Luz) she went to school with.

What you might not realise without any foreknowledge of the plot is that Nora is possessed by an evil spirit, and that her seduction of Dr Rossini is a way to transfer it to him. When she does so, Nora’s body slumps, apparently dead, and Dr Rossini goes to the police station where Luz has surrendered herself.

It turns out the spirit is in love with Luz, and will do anything to be near her. Dr Rossini is called to the police station to help them with the catatonic woman, and the demon gets its chance.

With two detectives in attendance, Rossini puts Luz under hypnosis to find out what happened to her, but none of them have any idea they’re under the instruction of something from another realm, and the session turns into a nightmare when Luz’s memories seem to be playing out in front of them, and Dr Rossini’s colleagues get increasingly fearful for their lives.

A bit like the oft-discussed hotel room scene at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the denouement seems fairly disinterested in the traditional dictates of story or narrative, writer/director Tilman Singer more interested in a visual fever dream than a plot.

The above description might be all you need to know to gauge whether you’ll respond to “Luz” or not. It’s slow moving and makes no concessions for the viewer, so some will be turned off within minutes. But if you stick with it there are some very stylistic pleasures to be found. The marketing material that accompanied the film mentions David Cronenberg, Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci and whether they were Singer’s influences or not, it’s as fair a summing up as you could probably get.

Shot all in a couple of locations on scratchy 16mm film and running only a shade over an hour it has dreamlike cinematography, swinging from still and stark to smoky and back again. The action is moody and low key, and while it’s a demon possession horror movie with no laying on of crosses, spewing of pea soup or even a single jump scare, you’ll love it if you’re a fan of the kind of alt-horror that used to be popular in the pre-video nasty era.

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