The end of the world, unusual art, and dangerous technology have taken over pop culture. Filmmaker Eddie Alcazar uses this foundation to dive into the deep end with one of the year’s most unusual visual spectacles. His third feature, Divinity, allows him to combine robust black-and-white cinematography with a deliciously weird series of makeup effects. Cribbing from body horror and a general fascination with sexuality, Divinity leaves an impression, even if the ideas it considers do not gel.
Two brothers (Moises Arias and Jason Genao) arrive at the house of Jaxxon Pierce (Stephen Dorff). The tycoon has transformed the post-apocalyptic desert into an eternal bacanal. However, his work on a drug known as “Divinity” may have adverse reactions. After the brothers hold Jaxxon hostage, they must keep him away from the world. However, when Nikita (Karrueche Tran) arrives, the brothers become captivated by her presence and view of life.
Divinity immediately dives into its absurd visual palette and then showcases its sexual appetite. Alcazar never shies away from graphic depictions of sexuality, but he also establishes a visible difference between lust and adoration. Over the first act, characters fall under each other’s spells. Watching Tran interact with Arias and Genao highlights the power of connection in any situation. It also allows the audience to hold onto something good in the dystopia.
The brilliant black and white cinematography provides the sci-fi and horror elements a timeless air. Using shadows and precise blocking adds mystery to the events on screen. It also helps increase the sensuality of many sequences while making a “dance club” feel more visually dynamic. Alcazar brings body horror directly into Divinity, making it easy to spot the influence of Cronenberg’s The Elephant Man. Yet Alcazar never cribs directly from these works. Instead, you can feel a blend of his inspirations and collaborations. The resulting images linger with the audience long after the credits roll.
By the end of the film, the monsters become as grotesque on the outside as they’ve been on the inside. It’s not a particularly nuanced take, but it’s an effective visual motif. It also sets up a fun stop-motion sequence at the end of the film that feels pulled from the Harryhausen school of visual effects. It is a nice surprise and feels unique by incorporating fighting visuals from anime and other East Asian influences. It’s an awesome blending of influences that feels long overdue.
Even with the visual prowess on display, the story of Divinity feels rather broad. It falls into the “scientists did not stop to think if they should do this” camp, which remains relevant in 2023. There’s not enough definition for Dorff’s character to explain his obsession with maintaining power beyond the obvious beats. Alcazar proves proficient at creating unforgettable images. In the future, a deeper thematic resonance or exploration will benefit his films. However, Divinity should also be a turning point for Alcazar to get those opportunities.