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Grimmfest Easter Horror Nights – Day 1 reviews

Today is the first day of Grimmfest’s first-ever Easter Horror Nights virtual event, with five days of horror and genre films being screened for eager fans.

Here is our first roundup of feature films –

The Barcelona Vampiress

The Barcelona Vampiress feels like it was plucked straight out of the peak-Tim Burton era of the late 1980s, with a fairytale aesthetic which often hypnotises the audience.

A similar trope to Schindlers List is employed with the use of red on its often black and white pallette, but being a vamp film this is blood of course.

We recount the story of a reporter who is trying to solve the case of a missing child but only uncovers far darker secrets than he could have ever imagined.

With some David Lynch imagery thrown in, The Barcelona Vampiress is a work of art with some truly stunning scenes that feel plucked out of an art gallery. The film asks questions of society and whether believing in fantastical theories instead of believing the harrowing truth is more cathartic.

This film has the potential to be this year’s Tigers Are Not Afraid.

The Night

Just when you thought fright movies didn’t do slow burn anymore, along comes Iranian director Kouroush Ahari with a haunted hotel film which is light on exposition and high on atmosphere.

Babak (Shahab Hosseini) and his wife Neda (Niousha Noor) leave a party held by fellow Iranian friends, all newly settled in the USA, with Babak a little worse for wear but insisting on driving; rather reckless considering their young daughter Shabnam is in the back seat. Hopelessly lost on their way home in a new country, not helped by a malfunctioning GPS, the pair agree to spend the night at the nearest hotel they can find: this turns out to be the imposing Hotel Normandie (fun fact: an actual ‘haunted’ hotel in downtown LA).

Once inside, and accommodated by the creepy manager/concierge (George Maguire, playing a character that would not have been out of place working at The Overlook), the family settle down for the night, their rest being interrupted by sounds of a young boy calling for his ‘mommy’ and other disturbances in the floor above. Babak and Neda gradually realise that they may be the only real people staying in the hotel and are stuck in some kind of past events timeloop; they also twig that the key to exiting the building’s temporal oddness may lay in secrets that the husband and wife both hold.

Ahari’s film plays very like a classic J-horror feature, using some rather familiar (or cliched, depending on your position) fright flick tropes, such as haunted mirrors, ghostly children etc, within a story that is necessarily vague and open to interpretation. This won’t suit horror fans looking for tidy endings and clear endings – a quote at the beginning of the film about multiverses is probably the nearest the movie gets to an explanation – but for others it’s a creepy ghost train ride with superb performances from Hosseini and Noor.

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