Thursday, December 30, 2010

Viy (Soviet Union; Georgi Kropachyov & Konstantin Yershov, 1967)

  Based on a short story by Gogol, this refreshingly funny horror-comedy follows Khoma Brutus (Leonid Kuravlyov), a monk-like character known as The Philosopher, who is hired to stand watch in a church over the corpse of recently-deceased youg woman, supposedly called upon by the girl herself on her death bed. Recognizing her as a younger version of the ancient toothless witch that took him for an airborn ride the day before, Brutus is a tad confused (as are we). The scenes inside the church are the real reasons to watch this movies. Protected by a hand-drawn circle of chalk, Brutus watches the corpse come to life at night, the young lady (Natalya Varley) trying to grab him before the rooster cries and she must go back to her resting place. The film's highlight occurs during the last night of duty, where the maiden is accompanied by demons coming out of the walls and trying to breach the Philosopher's protective circle. The effects during this climactic scene are still very impressive today, making one think of a Bosch or Bacon painting coming to life. Aesthitically reminiscent of Hammer films, this humorous gothic tale is a welcomed alternative to the usually gloomier side of Russian culture.

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