NIGHTSIREN (2024). Review by Steve Kirkham



4 stars
Arrow Films Limited Edition Blu Ray and Arrow streaming service. 3rd June

A young girl Šarlota, runs from her home, away from the shouting emanating from there. Her younger sister Tamara chases after her, and tragically, is accidentally pushed over a cliff edge to her death!

Now an adult, Šarlota (Natália Germáni) returns to the remote mountainside village, after being away for many years, since the terrible incident. She is there to ostensibly claim her inheritance – except she finds that her childhood home is no longer there, having burnt to the ground. Exploring their neighbours still standing, but abandoned house, it stirs up bad memories.

When a group of locals arrive, they seem afraid of her when they’re learn who she is and that she is heir to “the witch’s cabin”.

With nowhere else to go, she takes up residence in the cabin, despite the fact there is no electricity. That night she meets the free-spirited herbalist Mira (Eva Mores), lying naked outside in the dark “getting a tan” and they soon strike up a friendship – Mira is also an outsider from the villagers, who talk of witches and blood sacrifices of unbaptised children.

As Šarlota tries to find out what happened to her mother, she begins to think that maybe her sister survived the fall. Attempting to reconcile her past she is faced with the deeply ingrained superstitions of the townsfolk, who cling to their beliefs and the local legends – including talk of a ‘wild child’. Could these be her sibling? Not only is there the fear of the occult, with Šarlota and Mira tarred with the witchcraft brush, they also have to face the wife-beating men of the village and their high levels of misogyny.

Well acted, this is a slow moving, but gripping exploration of how remote communities never shed their deep-rooted and irrational obsessions, with anyone who doesn’t fitted into their narrow world view to be feared. Assuredly directed by Tereza Nvotová, this is an art house horror which looks fabulous, with striking imagery shot by cinematographer Federico Cesca and an atmospheric, powerful score by Robin Coudert and Pjoni.

Steve Kirkham

2 stars

Commentary by Kat Ellinger

Witches & Sisterhood – Video essay with film critic/author Alexandra Heller-Nicolas (11 mins)

Taboo – Video essay discussing the film by film critic Justine Smith (5 mins)