Film review: Bibi (Dances With Films 26)

A tense psychological thriller written and directed by Christopher Beatty, Bibi is named after a woman (Judith Ann DiMinni) whose sister, Ava (Rowan Castro), died in their house when they were children.

The secrets the house hides are both terrible and chilling, which gives a special tension to flashback scenes where youngsters Bibi and Ava live in guarded silence with an air of the girls from The Shining.

There are strange movements, sounds, and electrical charges in this house that feel heavy with foreboding and regret. Beatty’s screenplay emphasises silence, and those memories inanimate objects open up in our heads.

Bibi is a modern horror that plays tricks with the mind. It doesn’t have jump scares, but it layers on a real feeling of fear as to what happened within these walls.

The mother, Vivian ((Elizabeth Paige), has slipped out of her social world and sticks to the bleakness of her ‘old house’. Whether whatever malevolence lives there can forgive and forget seems unlikely.

Progressing at a glacial pace, this is not a film to appeal to those seeking action, shocks, or gore. It plays more like one of the BBC’s old Ghost Stories for Christmas while acknowledging the reality of parental grief at losing their child.

There’s sparse dialogue, atmospheric music, and a colour palette that relies on beiges, browns, reds, and greys. Shades of The Turn of the Screw are felt in the suggested visions seen in the garden through the window.

Outside, there are moments which bring private tragedy back and all the feelings of ‘what could I have done?’

Paige’s Vivian is a blank slate, slow-moving, detached from her friends; DiMinni’s Bibi holds her cards close, even while recalling past connections and actions.

Tammy Blanchard’s Nancy, a friend who is there both for humour and support, and wrong-footed conflict, is a contrast to the stillness. She stands out in her garish clothes and grating voice.

This is a creepy yet moving piece about grief and the strange things it makes us think and do; the things we might see or hear deep within our minds, whether there or not.

You can see Bibi as part of the Dances With Films 26 festival on 29 Jun at TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles: tickets here. The film goes on general release on 16 August.