Review: LUZ is a Stunning, Minimalist Breakout Hit, Subversive and Horrifying

Thank goodness we exist in the age we do. Luckily, film fans (and horror fans in particular) are fortunate to be such rabid consumers of entertainment and the international market has become so much more accessible. Because of such accessibility, we’ve seen overseas films become breakout sensations, such as The Babadook and Trollhunters, which have led those directors to much more success.

I can only hope that Tilman Singer gets that same opportunity because let me tell you, Luz is phenomenal.

The German made Luz is easy with it’s premise: Luz is a cab driver who brings herself into a police station and becomes subject to an interrogation that ends up diving head first into a baffling, terrifying realm of supernatural circumstance and paranormal smoke and mirrors. While the conceit may seem simple enough, don’t be fooled, Singer swerves in and out of logical and surreal, illogical and mystical, weaving across numerous lanes in a way that would normally be frustrating but it is handled with lackadaisical ease. It’s as if Singer is lounging in the drivers seat with one hand on the wheel and the other taking a drag, James Dean cool, while swerving through traffic at ninety miles an hour. It’s a heavy commotion but never consumes you because it’s clear the director (who also wrote the film) has such deft control over the subject matter.

The film is minimalistic in almost every category: a few sets with minor design, a handful of characters, even the practical effects and score feel simple. The mastery, however, is hidden among the simplicity. Singer is able to create a tense and eclectic supernatural thriller by using simple things such as shadow play, fog, contacts and clever lighting to help create something that feels much bigger than it really is. The end result though, is stunning. Luz is what would have happened if Carpenter had made a possession film instead of a slasher.

While a truckload of credit belongs to the new visionary Tilman Singer, the film would be deflated if not carried on the performances of its leads. While the supporting roles are well executed, a terrified translator, mysterious red head and police captain (played by Johannes Benecke, Julia Reidler and Nadja Stubiger) it’s really the off kilter and Luz herself who make the film. Jan Bluthardt plays Doctor Rossini, a neurologist who uses a form of hypnosis to interrogate people. Rossini starts the movie as a somewhat neurotic-seeming doc but is thrust into a chameleon role and does it so casually he might as well be reptilian. Our titular cab drive, Luz, played by the automatically charming Luana Velis is essentially playing the worlds weirdest game of charades throughout the film and does it perfectly. Her performance is captivating, a razor thin precision to detail that ends up teetering between amazing and uncanny.

Credit to be given to Simon Waskow and Paul Faltz as well. Waskow has created a score that is eerie in it’s absence, but amps up the most terrifying moments of the film that recalls eighties classics like Prince of Darkness. Faltz is the cinematographer, who is able to draw the eye expertly exactly where it needs to be and captures the claustrophobia and reductiveness needed to make the film as taut as it is.

Luz is weird. No doubt about it. It bounces around the narrative like Tarantino through a Carpenter filter. But it truly is a masterpiece of minimalistic gonzo horror. TIlman Singer is on a high wire of tension and watch out, it’s electric.

Luz is on the festival circuit now and will be distributed by Yellow Veil Pictures.

ReviewRyan LarsonLuz