M.L. Miller here! Welcome horror fans to my Annual countdown of the Best of the Best in Horror! Running every day through October, this list will culminate with the best horror film of the year announced on October 31st. Some of these films can be found in theaters—others have unfortunately only seen the light of day On Demand, DVD, BluRay, or digital download. I’ve tried to indicate in the reviews how you can watch and enjoy these films yourselves. I’ll also provide a “Worth Noting” secondary film suggestion in a separate post. These are films that stood out or just missed being on the list by a skosh—a little extra for those who can’t get enough horror.
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2018 and September 30, 2019 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. This countdown is not for the elitists or festival goers, so if the film hasn’t been released to the masses, it won’t be on the list. Also anything released this October will most likely be on next year’s list—so sorry, no films like DOCTOR SLEEP or ZOMBIELAND 2 just yet.
I hope you’ll join me daily and don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
LUZ? What the hell is LUZ? Well, let me tell you. LUZ blew me away when I first saw it and I was blown back again on second viewing. It’s a smart, imaginative, and utterly creative throwback to a time when you had to use your noggin’ to enjoy your horror. Harkening back to the days when Cronenberg did horror, LUZ is probably the most unique film on this or any list. Released on July 19, 2019, here’s my review of LUZ! Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/BluRay from Screen Media!
Directed by Tilman Singer
Written by Tilman Singer
Starring Luana Velis, Johannes Benecke, Jan Bluthardt, Julia Riedler, Nadja Stübiger
LUZ is a so chock full of innovative ideas, it should be illegal. From every aspect of this film, there is an abundance of creativity at play. There isn’t a second of this film to space as it rings in at one hour ten, but during that time it is completely full of ideas that are both thought-provoking and dazzling to the senses. It’s also quite an unnerving little nugget as well.
A young woman named Luz (Luana Velis) walks into a police station in an almost catatonic state. Once inside, she reveals that she has just jumped from the moving taxi that she was driving. She has come to the police for protection. Meanwhile, the psychiatrist assigned to her Dr. Rossini (Jan Bluthardt) meets a strange woman in a bar before meeting Luz and becomes possessed by a supernatural force. This force has been tracking Luz for a very long time and as Dr. Rossini makes his way to the police station, his final confrontation with Luz is about to begin.
Luz is a simplistic film that could play out like a one locale play. Most of the action takes place in one big interrogation room in a police station as the possessed Dr. Rossini attempts to get closer and closer to the unsuspecting and wounded Luz. The film is never boring and manages to make the mundane dazzle by creatively using the space and the way we all see it (through Luz’s eyes in a hypnotic state and through the reality of the movie).
In many ways, LUZ feels like a lost Cronenberg classic made some time close to SHIVERS. Even Dr. Rossini has that disheveled, sweaty, and off-kilter look like Allan Kolman does throughout most of Cronenberg’s film. The look and method of possession also evokes the possession scenes in Tobe Hooper’s space vampire epic LIFEFORCE. These are stylistic and purposeful choices as it seems director Tilman Singer wants this film to feel like some kind of unearthed and overlooked film from the late seventies. The film is made with a gritty scratched film filter, but not the cheap kind you see in low budget horror trying to be grindhousey. In this film, it seems to roll around in the nostalgic vibe of the late seventies, from the clothes to the technology used. It makes for a dangerous and unique feel to every frame.
Storytelling-wise it is also unique as the bulk of the film is set in the interrogation room with Luz trying to recreate the events that brought her there tonight. At the same time, Dr. Rossini is creeping closer and closer in hopes to strike while she is unaware and unguarded. Using some powerful pantomime acting, Luz acts out the night as if she is in the cab and interacting with the people she picked up that night. It is a testament to both the director and Velis as Luz that these scenes play out as effective as they do. It’s simply Velis in a chair doing all of this, but we are transported through time to earlier in the night as easily as if the scene were shot inside a cab. Filmmaker Singer knows how to use simple visual cues to transport the viewer along with Luz through time and space.
But the biggest achievement in LUZ is the use of sound. Playing with what we hear and what Luz hears, playing with simple sounds like a pen scratching on a paper and then making that a beat for the entire scene, playing with long silences while actions are going on—LUZ is a master class in sound design. Pay attention to how this movie sounds. There is a repetitive and simple tone—once again evoking the seventies except this time through some Carpenter-esque snyth tracks, that bores into one’s brain and really causes things to jamble and scramble. These repetitive tones, paired with slow pans filled with tense action, made me feel antsy. The sound definitely gets under your skin and festers, making you unnerved and anticipating the worst.
I love how this film psychologically fucks you as it allows you in on the secret that Dr. Rossini has bad intentions and then places the unsuspecting Luz into his web. It’s absolutely brilliant filmmaking from start to finish in every aspect. While there is very little blood and more than a little uncomfortable nudity, the film gives way to some truly disturbing scenes as the possessed seem awkward in these human bodies and move around as if they still haven’t mastered the whole motor skills part of possession. There’s so many amazing scenes in LUZ that I would love to dissect in depth and maybe one day I’ll be able to revisit and do so, but I’ll simply stop and say that above most other horror films out there this year, this is the one that surprised me the most. It hit me from out of the blue and is one of those secret movies you share with folks who love cinema just to see it brighten up their face while watching. I give LUZ one of my highest recommendations and am eagerly anticipating what Tilman Singer has in store for us next. If it’s another horror masterpiece like LUZ we have a new heavyweight in the realm of horror.
THE COUNTDOWN SO FAR…
#3 – LUZ
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
Interested in advertising on MLMILLERWRITES? Feel free to contact me here and we can talk turkey!
Don’t forget to share and like! Happy Halloween!