Old 05-09-2012, 07:13 AM
Viy aka Spirit of Evil (1967)

Viy aka Spirit of Evil (1967)

Nicolai Gogol was something of an ukrainian Edgar Allan Poe. Some of his writings rose to the status of world classic literature ("Dead Souls" in 1842)and he was a huge influence on russian/eastern european literature, inspiring such literary heavyweights as Lew Tolstoi and Michail Bulgakow. While his work always carries a certain social awareness, a lot of his writing could be labeld "horror" some 100 years later. The subject of this review is the russian adaption of Gogolīs short story "The Viy", the same story on which Mario Bava based his masterpiece "Black Sunday". Maybe inspired by the international success of that picture, the russians properbly thought it was time to put out their own adaption of the story, a film that was more in line with traditional russian moviemaking and also closer to the original story.

Our main character is called Khoma Brutus, a young "philosopher" (I guess heīs an aspiring priest or theology student, at least thatīs what the film makes it look like) who, through unlucky circumstances finds himself guest of a wicked old witch. After some bewitching and stuff the poor bastard finds himself employed as the witchīs horse/donkey replacement and manages to kill the old hag in a moment of clarity. Soon after however, his superioirs call upon him to guard the wake of a rich countrymanīs lovely young daughter who died under mysterious circumstances (and was also a witch of course), with his name on her lips as a last request. He will have to pray three nights in a row beside her coffin so her soul may rest in peace. As you can properbly guess, the witch ainīt going out like that.

This is a wonderful film, easily on par with the best european productions of that time. Wearing itīs more traditional russian fairytale-movie influences on itīs sleeve and mixing them with a bit of Bava and Hammer flair, "The Viy" made my jaw drop during itīs narrative centerpieces (the three nights Khoma has to spent next to the coffin). The creativity displayed on here is simply amazing - you like hot russian witches that use coffins as surfboards? Itīs here. Actress Natalya Varley is simply mesmerising in her portrait of the undead nemesis. With flower beads in her hair and white linen sheīs a true sight to behold and her quirky mannerisms fit the part like a glove. Story wise, this is as close to a Gogol story anyone ever got (maybe excluding the still elusive film version of "Taurus Bulba", starring Yul Brunner).

The only downside is that the film is entirely constructed around the above mentioned "highlights" and that the surrounding bits often feel like filler. We get lots of scenes where our main character tries to escape from the mighty landlordīs realm or tries to get friendly with his grumpy korsack henchman. But thatīs not uncommon in movies made in that time and shouldnīt really disheart any open-minded genre film to check this one out. The DVD from Ruscio comes with some restored parts of silent-area russian horrorfilms, all kicking mighty ass and being at least on par with their counterparts in german expressionism. Time to give those russians some credit, indeed.

Last edited by Dehydrator; 05-09-2012 at 07:25 AM..
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Old 05-10-2012, 04:41 PM
Originally Posted by Dehydrator View Post
The DVD from Ruscio comes with some restored parts of silent-area russian horrorfilms, all kicking mighty ass and being at least on par with their counterparts in german expressionism.
Sounds mighty inticing. I'm a lightweight when it comes to Russian horror. Strangly enought though, the only Gogol story I've read was the one this film si based on. Go figure. That was way back in high school though.
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Old 05-10-2012, 09:43 PM
I can't fucking believe I've never heard of this flick. Surfboard coffins? Yahtzee!
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