I haven’t seen a ton of Russian horror films, in fact I may have only seen one vampire movie from there. I don’t even remember the name, so I could be wrong. I have however seen almost every film that Severin has released so when I received their two newest releases I immediately popped one in. The one I decided to go with first (don’t worry I’ll review the other one later) was called Viy, which means Spirit of Evil. I had no clue what it was, as I must be honest and say I have never heard of it, but it did make the book “1001 Movies You Need To See Before You Die”
The film focus’s on Khoma, a young man studying to be a priest. One night when he and the rest of his class get lost in the middle of the night they seek refuge in a nearby farmhouse. The woman who answers lets them in and everything seem good until she returns to the barn where Khoma is sleeping (she made them all sleep in separate areas) she casts a spell on him, climbs on him, and starts flying around with him. He awakens from her spell and beats her to death because she’s a witch. Now she is an old lady but when he beats her she suddenly turns young. He freaks out even more and runs away.
When he arrives back at the school he finds out that he has been personally requested to go and pray for a young women who is dying. The request came from the girls father. Unfortunately for Khoma the girl in question is the witch he beat to death. She’s dead by the time he gets back to the farmhouse, but no one knows he killed her. Her father is quiet rich and tells him if he stays with her body and prays for her for three nights he will reward him. If he doesn’t he will get a thousand lashes for refusing. He agrees and is locked in with the young lady inside a large church. Now things are a bit weird, I mean he’s locked up with a dead body, by they go from weird to horrifying when night falls and the girl rises from her coffin trying to kill him. Luckily she is now blind so he basically prays while avoiding her.
This is a cool film that has an amazing claustrophobic feel about it. I love how Khoma is so scared of what will happen he keeps returning every night drunk as a way to help numb his fear. The film is silly, unintentionally of course but silly none the less. Now I will say that the scenes that Khoma is with the witch at night are really well done. They do have a great feeling of terror and helplessness about them that I haven’t seen in a modern film in many years. The rest of it is a bit much, but those nighttime scenes are fantastic.
Severin Films has once again outdone themselves on the transfer. I never heard of this film but when I found out it was Severin I knew it had to be a good one. A masterful transfer on their part everything looks awesome. Everything is clear and the audio is fantastic. This picture is as clean as can be. All the colors are crisp and clear and the sound, especially the classic style score just bellows through your speakers. Severin just keeps doing such amazing work they have it down to a sweet science at this point. They even managed to include a nice amount of special features
Viy the Vampire: An Interview with Richard Stanley
The Woods To The Cosmos: John Leman Riley On The History Of Soviet Fantasy And Sci-Fi Film
Short Silent Films – Satan Exultant, The Queen of Spades, and The Portrait
This is a good, weird, surreal, humorous, and sometimes frightening film all rolled into one. I still don’t know how it escaped me all these years but thanks to Severin we can all sit back and enjoy it.
Overall 3 out of 5 Stars!