By CHRIS HAMMOND
Starring Natalia Germani, Eva Mores, Juliana Olhová
Directed by Tereza Nvotová
Written by Barbora Namerova, Tereza Nvotová
Breaking Glass Pictures
Please don’t go into THE NIGHTSIREN expecting an in-your-face splatterfest, this horror is scary in the fact that it is more reality-based. Witches have had a bad rap throughout history. What defines a witch anyway? A witch is thought to have special evil powers, but who decides what is evil? Superstition and folklore still exist in the world today. Women have usually been on the receiving end of this depiction, a good example of this is The Salem Witch Trials. Women who were seen as not normal were tortured, drowned and worse to irradicate them of the evils.
Director Tereza Nvotová takes the audience on a Slovakian adventure into the dark, drab isolated village where superstition and misogyny reign supreme. The villagers aren’t cut off from the technologies (cell phones) of today’s world, but they still look for blame in folklore when something bad happens.
Šarlota(Natalia Germani) returns to the countryside she fled two decades ago. Her reason for fleeing is a horrible accident that occurred with her younger sister Tamera (who saw the blame land on Otyla (Iva Bittová), a Roma woman residing on the outskirts of the village. Accused of witchcraft Otyla becomes the scapegoat for Šarlota’s disappearance and the accident.
Twenty years later, Šarlota returns to the village, causing panic among the locals. She is determined to reveal truths about her past and her family, which causes the villagers to grow increasingly apprehensive.
Nvotová uses other folklore horror films (The Wickerman, The VVitch) only as a template. The story which THE NIGHTSIREN portrays is something darker and more realistic. The suspicions about Šarlota and the mysterious afflictions that occur with the village’s animals lead to the villager’s violent behaviour.
The film is more of an exploration of misogyny and how strong women in this film are seen as “witches” because they don’t fall in line with the way the men of this community expect them to act. Masculinity is a future and one to be flaunted over the females in this village. Do not question the men, for if you do you’ll be labelled a “witch” and garner all the stigma that comes with that moniker. Basically, the supernatural things which have befallen the town are more of a way to explain away the actions of women like Šarlota.
THE NIGHTSIREN does have a mystery which is revealed, but if the audience is paying close attention they should pick up on it before it happens. The film has wonderful locations ripe for a supernatural folklore horror. The colour palettes which Cinematographer Federico Cesca uses are cold, grey and pretty depressing. There is one instance in a dream-like sequence where naked bodies are splashed with neon makeup. This imagery only adds to the already mystic feel of the film.
Where THE NIGHTSIREN falters a little is in the third act where the plot gets a little labyrinthine and some viewers may get lost. The ending is also quite abrupt and may leave you shaking your head. What the film does well is make its own rules and create a dark look at how superstition is still used to control even today.
ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS OCTOBER 24
Sitges | Won Best Actress & Best Feature Length European Film
Locarno International Film Festival | Won Golden Leopard – Filmmakers of the Present
Sun in a Net Awards Slovakia – 3 Nominations
Czech Lions – 7 Nominations
Fantastic Fest – Official Selection