Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society. He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate."

A scene from the German horror film 'Luz' by director Tilman Singer

A scene from the German horror film 'Luz' by director Tilman Singer

Resembling an obscure 80s horror film that could have been discovered in a vault or better yet a crypt, “Luz” marks the debut of German filmmaker Tilman Singer. Screened last year at Fantastic Fest and rolling into theaters this Friday, the 70-minute tale of possession is heavy on atmosphere and ambiguity. Still, it’s an intriguing journey that stimulates the senses while paying homage to David Cronenberg, Tobe Hooper, and Dario Argento.

The story opens in a desolate police station manned by a preoccupied desk clerk who doesn’t notice when female cab driver Luz (Luana Velia) stumbles in and heads straight for the soda vending machine. As Simon Waskow’s eerie score sets the tone, our title character approaches the clerk and asks, “Is this how you wanna live your life?” and “Is this seriously what you want?” He doesn’t respond because she is speaking Spanish and we’re in Germany. Nonetheless, the Chilean born Luz repeats the questions this time yelling at the top of her lungs.

Meanwhile, across town in a small dive bar, consulting psychiatrist and psychotherapist Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt who bears a striking resemblance to Peter Weller) encounters a mysterious woman named Nora (Julia Riedler) who tells him a story about a girl she met in Chile named Luz. Singer uses flashbacks to illustrate Nora’s tale that involves a Catholic girls school, a medium, a ritual, and a blasphemous prayer. As the narrative enters a supernatural realm the timeline becomes convoluted and the audience is left to fit the pieces of the puzzle together.

Shot in 16mm, which further enhances the film’s vintage look, “Luz” is a compelling debut from Singer that shows promise for much bigger projects. Apart from the above-mentioned directors, I was reminded of Michael Mann’s 1983 film “The Keep” based on the F. Paul Wilson novel, while watching the demonic tale. From “The Exorcist” on down, there have been many films dealing with possession but Singer’s approach is told from the entity’s point of view, not the victim.

Like an autostereogram, “Luz” requires the viewer to concentrate to see the big picture. Creepy visuals and layered audio tell a simple tale that eventually comes into focus.

(3 stars)

Opens Friday, July 19 at Alamo Drafthouse LaCenterra (Houston)

Joe Friar is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (Los Angeles) and the Houston Film Critics Society.  He co-founded the Victoria Film Society and reviews films for Hit Radio 104.7 and the Victoria Advocate.

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