Opening scenes are typically designed to draw a viewer in, open with a bang and some action. Luz’s three-minute drawling opening scene of a girl walking into a police station and to a vending machine is quite the opposite. In fact, it draws us in with just how abnormal its normalcy is.
By the three-minute mark this titular character we come to know as Luz begins to hellishly shriek at a man behind a desk, “Is this how you want to live your life?” The screams build to a deafening tone that threatens to tear through the very grain of the 16mm film the film is shot on. This is far from your normal possession film.
What director Tilman Singer creates with his perfectly short 70-minute run time is nothing short of unhinged magic, subverting expectations of the genre and moulding the format to his will in his innovative story structure. This structure primarily follows Luz (Luana Velis), a young Chilean taxi driver working in Germany who appears to be getting followed by a demon. Singer plays with our perception of Luz (is she crazy? Maybe. Maybe not) throughout the film but mainly through the introduction of Nora (Julia Riedler), who we find sitting in a bar, reciting a story to the only man there who would listen, Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt).
Nora explains that she went to a Catholic high school with Luz and that the nuns believed she was involved in satanic practice. After reciting a perverse version of the Lord’s prayer (“Oh father, why are thou such a dick?”) to a supposedly pregnant classmate Luz became incredibly sick and took two hundred other girls along with her illness.
Dr. Rossini eventually ends up tending to the dazed Luz through a hypnotherapy session where she is questioned about the events that led up to her arrival at the station. Its here that Singer throws the rule book out of the window. In a series of scenes that play out more like a stage show Luz recreates the events miming sat at a chair, often cutting to genuine flashbacks and then back into the police station performance. Languages change frequently from Spanish to German and English, talking over each other in a frenzy of memories. Aided by its pulsating Lynch/Argento fusion soundtrack of wicked fast drums and synth, the confusion brought on for the audience with this information and visual overload surprisingly only does more to intrigue.
It’s an entirely ambiguous film, one that – despite its often-horrible visions, strangely feels like the events before the main scares even takes place. Where American cinema would show the crashing downfall, Singer lingers in the unnerving build-up; it’s a possession film by way of Andrzej Zulawski with the lingering terror of It Follows.
To leave the film with questions would be an understatement, but its so compelling in its sparseness that it gets under your skin. Impressive in both its visuals and sound design that echoes off the highest points of 70s Giallo, Luz still manages to feel entirely unique. Singer will surely be welcomed into the ‘prestige horror’ circle with open arms soon.
by Chloe Leeson
Chloe Leeson is the founder of SQ. She hails from the north of England (the proper north that people think is actually Scotland but isn’t). Her life source is Harmony Korine’s 90s Letterman interviews and Ezra Miller’s jawline. She is a costume designer for hire who spends far too much time watching bad horror movies. Her favourite films are Into The Wild, Lords of Dogtown, Stand by Me and Pan’s Labyrinth. She rants about cinema screenings @kawaiigoff and logs them on letterboxd here