Luz, written and directed by Tillman Singer, is a new mystery-horror film that is sure to be one of the biggest surprises of the year. The movie follows a cab driver who seeks refuge in a run-down police station from a demonic presence that will do anything within its means to be close to the woman it loves.
The story of the film isn’t particularly unique or innovative in and of itself, but the way in which it is told is refreshing and innovative. The movie can be divided pretty clearly into two halves: a scene in a bar and a scene in a police station. The former portion is interesting in a way that will get you hooked into the story and its world, allowing the latter half to work its magic and absolutely blow you away.
The structure of the second half is a significant part of what makes the film so enjoyable. In a fascinating twist on the nonlinear narrative, a character is hypnotized and re-enacting events that happened in the past, providing greater context for what we learn in the first half. However, even more impressive is the absolutely beautiful way in which it is shot, making you feel like you are trapped in the room with the characters.
The fact that this is Singer’s directorial debut is absolutely stunning, as he shows an understanding and skill with how to use the camera that one would not normally associate with the freshman effort of a director. Singer obviously has a great eye which is particularly evident from his ability to take advantage of small and enclosed settings. This is one of the most successful artistically-driven horror movies to come out in quite a while.
All of this builds to a climax that is satisfyingly crazy. Although some casual horror watchers who are used to seeing films with greater bursts of intensity may be disappointed, the sustained tension that Singer uses in the movie is likely to keep most genre enthusiasts on the edge of their seats more so than most other recent possession films. Perhaps most surprising is that the movie clocks in at just over an hour in length, yet it manages to accomplish all of these things in a way that feels fully developed and well-paced.
That said, the one area in which this film could have used some additional work is its character development. This is the portion of the movie that likely suffered most from the short runtime, as having an added introduction to the characters would have created an even greater emotional attachment to their story. Enough is done to establish basic sympathy with the characters, but you can’t help but feel like it is missing something.
Regardless, the actors all do a very good job in their roles. The ensemble is quite small, with only three main actors and a handful of other faces appearing in the film. Luana Velis does a great job in the eponymous role, playing the victim quite well, but it is her chemistry with Jan Bluthardt that makes the movie. His performance is fittingly over-the-top in a film where over-the-top is the name of the game.
Both breathtakingly beautiful and breathtakingly suspenseful, Luz is a phenomenal directorial debut from German director Tillman Singer. Although there are a handful of issues, this is certainly one of the most impressive genre movies of the year so far and should shoot to the top of the watchlist of any horror fan.
Luz is now playing in select theaters.