Natalie’s dedication to her religious vocation has led her to become a nun. Her celibacy is a symptom of disgust with her family’s household, a home the young virgin could not bear to live in another second or much rather return to that stems from an uncomfortable inkling of unnatural circumstance, but when she is informed her parents were in a tragic accident involving the death of her mother and a father bedridden by shock, Natalie reluctantly returns home. She’s greeted by Angela, her university studying older sister, and her delinquently dangerous boyfriend, Mauro, and alongside a few of Angela’s classmate, the decision to track down a shaman on an secluded island on the outskirts of town has convinced the group to seek alternative and holistic treatments, such as a brew made from the mystical Ayahuasca plant, to battle their own self-complications. What they discover is that some inner demons should be left untapped and undisturbed or else their souls will pay the consequence.
“Luciferina” is a black rites narrative saturated with psychosexual tendencies and religious divergences from writer-director Gonzalo Calzada whose horror mystery footprint, the Argentinian filmmaker’s common foundation for his prior work in “Resurrection” and “The Clairvoyant’s Prayer,” maintains a strong foothold for his latest venture from 2018 with a story of solid foreboding and overshadowing complication that’s naturally opaque, guiding viewers seemingly toward one direction and then obliterating their conjectures in an in a blink of an eye about how characters or events might play out. Layered with themes and heavy with motifs, Calzada summons the internal demon, figuratively and literally, from within an indie picture budget that’s complete with accidental demonic conjuring, eye-devouring effects, and a climax involving temple fornication of various Kama Sutra positions.
Young, beautiful, and, yet, withdrawn and plain, Natalia has embedded herself into nun-hood, a means to escape the unexplainable discomfort inside her own home and even in herself as she’s haunted by visions of a disheveled woman with crooked arms popping unnaturally out of a white nightgown, but not all of Natalia’s visions are bleak as she’s able to, at times, define a person’s gleaming aura during a momentary spell. Sofia Del Tuffo stars as the troubled vocational woman, a role that demands much from the young actress who can easily transition from a screaming and scared postulate to taking charge of her destiny by gripping Satan’s horns. Tuffo opposites Pedro Merlo as Abel who is, well, more or less a potential love interest. Abel has fire inside him sparked by his desire for Natalia, but goes full inferno after downing the Ayahuasca juice. The light and dark of Abel has Merlo flipping the script continuously and the actor keeps up with relative ease. The opinionated downside to roles Natalia and Abel might be lost in translation, but there’s a sense of disconnect between their multiple purposes: shaman visit, the unspoken connection for each other, and their intertwined destinies. These aspects go fairly unexplored or are either, in the script, diluted in the details. The supporting cast also don’t add volume to the story and though not all of the cast are like this, a good chunk are rather auxiliary for the moment of pinnacle prominence and their sub-stories are quickly squished – that’s the Gonzalo Clazada affect. The remaining cast includes Marta Lubos (“Darkness by Days”), Melena Sanchez, Francisco Donovan, Stefania Kossl, Gaston Cocchiarale (“Terror 5”), and Desiree Gloria Salgueiro.
“Luciferina’s” themes bubble quite easily to the surface, the more obvious found in the religious field, but an interesting theme is a woman’s protective, if not problematic, stance toward copulation and the guarded uterus and their right to chose. Natalia has no experience with sex and she’s constantly under the pressure of having sex, even inside the chaste nunnery. Natalia nonchalantly pushes away one of the boys in the nun’s drug rehab program with not much oomph, she then comes under siege by the forcibly accosting Mauro and his verbal rape fantasies toward his girlfriend’s younger sister, and then Abel’s internal struggle with his Faustian under guise who enthusiastically confesses his hard on to score with Natalia to bring forth more evil spawn. A common motif from the baby making is the uterus that pops up in Natalia’s dreams and her late mother’s frantic paintings that circle around the pressures of motherhood and as Natalia procrastinates under the semblance of saving her own life to further prolong her inevitable destiny, she comes to the realization running will prove for naught and becomes empowered. One thing weird in relation is not the uterus in itself, but rather the computer generated baby in the womb; the impression is okay in construction as the baby has some realism in the detail, but the adverse effect is the use of the effect that seems pointless and ostentatious.
Artsploitation Films and Reel Suspects presents “Luciferina” onto Blu-ray home video. The anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ration, presentation is quite sharp with textures and details in a lossless image. Calzada uses much of the natural coloring in daytime sequences and the night scenes are moderately bluish and director of photography, Claudio Beiza, has immense range and depth that provide astonishing interior and exterior backdrops that can be subtly pleasing. The Spanish language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound substantially keeps with the tone and pacing of the story. Dialogue is balanced and verbose in the forefront. The release also comes with a Spanish language 2.0 stereo track. Both audio tracks come with English subtitles that saw minor issues with translation errors and timing. The only bonus feature available is the film’s theatrical trailer. “Luciferina’s” contemporary tale of possession and sexual innuendo is rabid. Director Gonzalo Calzada’s ambiguity of mystery horror is grossly engaging while “Luciferina” can also be glossy with splayed monstrous savagery and graphic sexual content, two genre commodities that churn easy entertainment.
When the Mt. Jang cave is broken into by a couple of lethal wrongdoers, a ominous presence is released onto the mountainside, a malevolence that can precisely mimic voices of loved ones to lure victims to their ultimate doom. A young family, hanging on to a last bit of unnerving hope, moves into a house on the surrounding area, seeking to reverse the impossible by rejuvenating their semi-catatonic grandmother whom perhaps knows the last whereabouts of their missing boy from five years ago, but what the family encounters on the mountainside is a harmful specter hellbent on using the body of a obsessive and loyal shaman and his innocent, preschooler daughter to obtain more souls for a fearful urban legend, the Jangsan Tiger.
Based off the South Korean folklore involving the Jangsan Tiger, a man-eating beast that lives and hunts on the Jangsan Mountains and can imitate a woman’s screams or the sound of running water to lure people in, “Hide and Seek” director Huh Jung helms “The Mimic,” his sophomore 2017 fantasy thriller that explores a highly entertaining, opt-ed version of the urban legend. Originally titled “Jang-san-beom” in South Korean, Huh also pens the script catered to blend fantasy with delusional, family-destroying hope. Even though hope is more than usually a positive aspect in all dire situations, Huh manipulates hope by molding it as an entrapment, leading friends and family members down a path to a false reality, psychological impairments, and, ultimately, to a melancholic demise.
“The Mimic” stars “A Tale of Two Sisters'” Yum Jung-Ah as a grieving mother, Hee-yeon, looking for answers to the mystery of her son’s disappearance while in the care of her grandmother. Jung-ah tackles a role that’s compiled with emotional affliction, fear, and chimera to which the Seoul born actress challenges herself to depict each complication as one connective element. Park Hyuk-kwon plays her husband, whom is struggling to cope with his wife sadness and inadequacy to let go of the past. Together, Jung-ah and Hyuk-Kwon’s character dynamics strive to unearth deep-rooted, therapeutical hurdles and they accomplish just that with the help of influential costars, especially in the 9-year-old actress Shin Rin-Ah. The sweet, fresh face of Rin-Ah Shin becomes the ultimate deception, a suspected sheep in wolf skin, that this pint-sized bundle of cuteness could be the family’s undoing. The cast rounds out with Heo Jin, Bang Yu-seol, and Lee Jun-hyeok.
Now while “The Mimic,” not to be titularly confused with Guillermo del Toro’s “Mimic,” is laced with unsettling camera angles and bottom-popping jump scares, the embodied Jangsan Tiger regrettably places the Huh Jung one notch lower on the proverbial grade scale. The shaman’s body, a rather thick individual, has been possessed by the Jangsan Tiger that’s been depicted covered with stringy white coat, long arms and legs like a sloth, a tiger-like maxilla and jowl on a human-esque face, and with cold, blank eyes. Instead, the Jangsan Tiger remains in human form throughout with subtle changes that reference the tiger; for example, the horizontal white fur on each side of the shaman’s rather gnarly face. Transformation effects just don’t do the antagonist justice and, frankly, should have kept the shaman a wretched shell of himself, spawning through mirror gateways, ever reaching to touch the next soul to digest, but when Hee-yeon and her husband enter the labyrinth Mr. Jang cave system, the shaman is a rabid dog, a ravenous trickster, but not as ferocious as the description might sound.
Arriving on Digital & Blu-ray June 12, Well Go USA Entertainment distributes “The Mimic” onto an unrated, 1080p Blu-ray presented in a widescreen, 16:9 aspect ratio, and the image suffers no compression issues, has a fine palette that more-or-less of a blue or yellow hue, and has a leveled up bitrate. The 100 minute runtime feature has a Korean 5.1 surround sound DTS-HD Master Audio that’s effective with the Jangsan’s imitation lures. The waterfall rain and echoing animal ambient tracks are spot on with range and depth. Optional English subtitles are available and, considering the film’s duration, are considerable accurate and timely, but I did manage to catch one error where “leaves” was typed instead of “lives” where appropriate in the context of the sentence. Extras are slim with a cursory making of featurette and the film’s original trailer. “The Mimic” revels in South Korean lore, even if it’s a variation of, and the menacing atmospheric and audio cues exhibit a precision that’s a testament to director Huh Jung’s psychological spook show filmmaking, but the build up behind the mysterious small girl, the bricked cave, and the alluring voices are quickly summed up with meretricious humanoid value instead of a mystical and enchanting beast.
In a small South Korean village, tight-knit families practically know one another in the quaint middle-class community. When mysteriously deadly destructions from inside local families and strange stories of animal carcass devouring creatures in the woods surface, local police sergeant Jong-Goo begins an investigation to connect a pattern of violence and superstition and at the center of it all is a suspicious and reclusive Japanese traveller. Bound by the law and an overall lack of courage, Jong-Goo proceeds to investigate with extreme caution, but when his young daughter, Hyo-jin, becomes subjected to the same symptoms that overtook destroyed families from within, the desperate father sets aside rules and regulations and uses threats and force when visiting the Japanese Stranger, whose rumored to be an evil spirit that’s plaguing the small village with terror and death.
By far, “The Wailing” sets the precedent on folklore horror. Acclaimed writer-director Hong-jin Na lands a harrowingly ambitious, well-constructed film right into the lap of horror fans with “The Wailing,” known also as “Goksung” in the film’s country of South Korea. South Korean filmmakers have once reestablished proof that foreign films can be as masterful, as bold, and as elegant when compared to any other film from major studio productions. Hollywood has started to come around by remaking one of South Korea’s most notorious films, the vengeful thriller “Oldboy,” and seeks to remake recent international hits in “Train to Buscan” and “I Saw the Devil.” Lets also touch upon that top Hollywood actors are beginning to branch out to South Korean films. “Captain America” star Chris Evans had obtained a starring role in Joon-ho Bong’s “Snowpiercer” alongside co-stars Ed Harris and the late British actor Sir John Hurt. “The Wailing” will reach similar popularity being one of 2016’s most original horror movies and one of the more unique visions of terror to clutch the heart of my all time favorite’s list.
Do-won Kwak stars as Sergeant Jong-Goo, a officer who avoids trouble at all costs and has no motivation to be on time for anything. Kwak, basically, plays the fool character, comically going through the routine of investigating brutal murders complete with stabbings, burnings, and hangings despite his Captain’s constant chastising and seizes every opportunity to act dumb and look stupid, but once the story starts to focus “The Wailing” as nothing more than an offbeat black-comedy, Hong-ja Na devilishly about-faces with a severe turn of events that’s a mixed bag of genres. Kwak no longer plays the lead role of comic relief; instead, a more self-confident Sergeant Jong-Goo takes control of the investigation as the deeper he finds himself involved in the dark plague that’s ravaging his village. He hunts down the Japanese Stranger, the debut South Korean film for long time Japanese actor Jun Kunimura (“Kill Bill,” Takashi Miike’s “Audition”) with a zen like aurora that’s enormously haunting to behold and captivating when his presence is lurking amongst the scene. Though Kunimura’s demeanor contrasts with other actors, he’s very much in tune with the dynamic, but it’s the maniacally, foul-mouth ravings of Hyo-jin, played by Hwan-hee Kim, that stand out and are the most distraught during her possession state that could give “The Exorcist” a run for it’s money and is a visceral vice grip to the soul that has to be experienced. Woo-hee Chun and Jung-min Hwang round out the cast in their respective and memorable co-starring roles as a peculiar no named woman and a flashy shaman.
“The Wailing” incorporates various folklore stemming from cultures all over the world including the Koreas, China, Japan, and even from China’s bordering neighbor Nepal and meshes them with religious practices of Buddhism to even the far corners that the Catholic faith possesses. The luxuriant green South Korean mountain backdrop sets an isolated, ominous cloud over a beautiful and serene archaic village, an awe-inspiring juxtaposition created by cinematographer Kyung-pyo Hong that coincides with the complete dread piercing through the heart of the story; a perspective vastly opposite to Hong’s works in the previously mentioned “Snowpiercer” that’s set in the tight confines of a class dividing bullet train. “The Wailing” bundles together mythos with visionary concepts and landscapes in an epic mystery-thriller that’s unforgettable; it will cling to you, like a evil-dwelling spirit, well after the film is over.
20th Century Fox, in association with Ivanhoe Pictures and Side Mirror, produce Hong-jin Na’s top horror contender “The Wailing” with Well Go USA and Kaleidoscope Home Entertainment distributing on DVD and Blu-ray. Unfortunately, I was provided with a DVD-R screener and can’t specifically comment on specifications and image or audio quality. Accompanying the screener were two bonus features: a behind-the-scenes featurette and the beginning tale of “The Wailing” featurette. Both were fairly informative that gives insight on Hong-jin Na’s mindset and how the director’s ambitious story in a malignant tale of comedy, horror, and mysterious involving demons, shamans, and, quite possibly, the devil himself. “The Wailing” significantly captivates, sucking you into the darkness with an uncanny amount of pull with a story too terrifyingly original to avert and too thick with vigorous characters in a plot twist too harrowing to forget.