Set in 19th-century Russia and based on a story by Nikolai Gogol, Viy is often called the first Russian horror film. Though far less intense than Western films of the same period, it contains moments of haunting spookiness. Three seminary students set off together on their spring leave, traipsing across the countryside in hopes of finding someone who will take them in for the night. As it grows darker, their prospects are reduced to one isolated farm, and together they talk their way into the good graces of the crone who owns the place. She separates the young men and directs Khoma Brutus (Leonid Kuravlyov) to sleep in the barn. After she kidnaps him and takes him flying across the countryside, Khoma realizes the woman is a witch. When they return to earth he beats her with a stick until her cries make him pause and he discovers, to his horror, that he's pummelling a beautiful young woman (Natalya Varley). Thoroughly rattled, Khoma hightails it back to the church, where the rector promptly directs him to accompany several waiting men back to the farm owned by their master, a wealthy parishoner. His daughter has been found in a field, brutally beaten, and her dying request is that the student seminarian Khoma read the traditional prayers for her soul's deliverance. Khoma, knowing that the daughter must be the witch, goes under protest. The girl dies before his arrival, and Khoma is informed that for three nights he must sit alone with her corpse in the family's gloomy, padlocked church, praying. On the first night, she rises like a zombie; on the second she flies about in her coffin, and on the third she raises all manner of demons, skeletons and assorted hellspawn to torment Khoma, including the dreaded Viy. Slow and filled with rustic humor, this film's reputation rests on the last third, when Khoma, protected by a magic circle, is threatened by increasingly violent supernatural forces. Natalya Varley is a genuinely uncanny presence, and her stuttering body language sometimes recalls that of Sadako, the vengeful spirit of the Japanese RING films. The Viy itself is a disappointment, a lumbering, silly looking thing that would be right at home in THE NEVERENDING STORY.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Set in 19th-century Russia and based on a story by Nikolai Gogol, Viy is often called the first Russian horror film. Though far less intense than Western films of the same period, it contains moments of haunting spookiness. Three seminary students set off… (more)