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Remember the terrifying cautionary tales of your childhood? The folk horror genre brings these hauntings to life in ways that are scary and horrid. Most of the best horror movies originate from folklore and mythologies. The underrated 2017 movie The Ritual, Ari Aster’s Midsommar, and Robert Eggers’ The Witch are all perfect horror movies, among some of the best in recent folklore horror subgenre. It is a genre that has lasted since the beginning of the Horror films (as evident in 1922 film Häxan), having been enchanted ever since.

But why do we love folk horror so much? Well, rather than concentrating on jump scares or increasing amounts of blood and gore to frighten us out of our wits; culture fears draw their scare power from cultural specificity, universal themes about real life struggles and ancient stories about fear of the unknown which leaves viewers with anxiety as well as terror. Nightsiren is the latest addition to this sub-genre.

Nightsiren is a brutal examination of patriarchy and how far it will go to put women down. They celebrate women’s power who stand up against their oppressors irrespective what they have experienced. With difficult moments one can hardly bear, Nightsiren’s isolated setting and impactful topics create hauntingly authentic world.

Also, there’s no moment when this movie feels easy at all. In fact, instead you will find scenes depicting murder, child abuse, segregation or rape or animal brutality in Nightsiren. It forces your face directly into a horrible reflection on some parts of our reality too often. However it is through these images and themes that help generate both terror but also an inspiring message towards end part of the film itself. You don’t know where it is going but getting there involves suspenseful journey full with terror and meaningful themes.

Nightsiren by Tereza Nvotová follows Sarlota (Natalia Germani) a woman who returns to the mountain village of her youth to get answers about her troubled childhood. Sarlota has never healed from the abuse at her mother’s hands nor forgiven herself for the accident that caused the death of her sister. On her return to home, she is instantly branded a witch but when she meets another villager Mira (Eva Mores) who shares similar views they defy the town collectively.

There are many horror movies dealing with witches in an isolated God-fearing town. Yet, Nightsiren is not about whether Sarlota is a witch or not but rather villagers’ fear towards those oppressing her just because she is different and instantly labeling her as sorceress without any good reason out of fear.

Nightsiren doesn’t shy away from revealing the horrific underbelly of our patriarchal society. Most men in Nightsiren always feel compelled to put down women in their town, only referring to them as baby makers. When such a lady as Sarlota differs, becomes stronger and won’t conform; they become scared and quickly brand any system rejecting patriarchy as witchcraft.

The director of this movie, Tereza Nvotvá, is fearless when it comes to showing the wicked acts carried out by most of the male characters. Herein, there are a number of scenes which are graphic in nature about rape cases, sexual abuses as well as child abuse that build up more tensed and extremely uncomfortable atmosphere. This offers an irrefutable reflection on some aspects of our societies that unfortunately still exists today.

This is because Nightsiren’s overt examination of the patriarchal system throughout history also champions the power of women. Of course, many scenes in the film depict rape and sexual molestation; however, Sarlota and Mira prove to be stronger than these men who commit these despicable acts making them appear small individuals while celebrating real inner (and physical) strength of females against male oppression from the film.

Another brilliantly directed scene has a euphoric moment wherein Sarlota runs through several naked bodies covered in fluorescent body paint with vibrant neon lights surrounding her. It is followed by a scene that celebrates sexuality but also represents fantastical wolf masks symbolizing society alphas depicting their sexual dominance over feline-like figures who move around fire. Similarly there is a powerful nude dance sequence around a fire where repressed gay character begins to embrace this sexualization before being chased away by people who oppressed her in an another dreamlike existence. These scenes celebrate sexual freedom while reminding viewers about constant presence of oppressive society

Videography for Nightsiren is amazing with long shots that throw one right into this terrible world. However, it makes already painful moments even more unendurable for audience members. The remote Slovakian landscape is simply stunning with boundless trees and high mountains and beautiful countryside: true paradise! Nevertheless, it is secludedness like this that creates fear towards isolation. There Is no signal, no one except oppressive sectarian society of the village and no way out at all. The physical and emotional claustrophobia reflects the condition of women who are isolated from others and oppressed.

It is characterized by haunting and euphoric music which is further boosted by the above mentioned beautifully shot, dreamlike sequences. However, it’s those moments when music score drops out that really make this film feel so much more anxiety-inducing. You will be completely devastated after watching this movie.

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