Great Halloween story from a classical writer
Y. Boykov | Princeton, NJ United States | 02/05/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am not really into horror movies but I find this one different. It is based on a story by Gogol (early 19 cent. Russian writer, Pushkin thought highly of him) who was inspired by Ukranian folklore. Excellent family watching (esp. for a Halloween night). I think it might be reasonably approprate for kids (9 and up, or as soon as they are OK with witches). In fact, this movie was distributed in Moscow (in 70's) through a chain of "movie-theathers for kids". The movie starts more like a comedy (vacation-bound semenarists mob streat vendors and grab passing girls while running from an Orthodox monastery). The movie gives excellent snap-shots of life in a Ukranian village 200 years ago. An atmosphere of that time is masterfully created. Gradually, the movie shifts towards "horror" as the story line develops around a young seminarist (Khoma). He is forced to come to a small village to pray for three nights over a body of a beautiful maiden who died under misterious circumstances. Each night Khoma is locked in an old wooden church where he gets all sorts of "visitors"... The maiden turned out to be a witch who had some old accounts with Khoma.Nice acting and directing (Ptushko's movies got a number of awards at Cannes). Some special effects, e.g. flying coffin, are quite good (especially considering that the movie was made in the 60's)... However, true "horror" enthusiasts might be somewhat dissappointed by the very final scene where the witch summons Viy (a version of Devil) to haunt Khoma. The authors would probably come up with a more convincing Devil in the current age of computer graphics. Special thanks to RUSCICO who produced this excellent DVD for Image Entertainment. The movie is digitally restored. Picture and colors are great. 5.1 surround sound was a surprise."
The only soviet horror movie
Viatcheslav Kalashnikov | marietta, Georgia United States | 02/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Based on the novel of XIX sentury writer splendid story about the guy , who have too pray in the locked chirch for the soul of dead girl, one problem, she is the evil witch, and each night she rises from the coffin to hount him, at some moments it is a pretty scary. Perfect qualty & sound."
"Sacred Circle, Save Me! ~ A Cossack Doesn't Fear Anything I
Brian E. Erland | Brea, CA - USA | 02/27/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Note: Russian with English subtitles.
Synopsis: Brother Khoma, a young, Ukrainian Orthodox seminarian unintentionally beats an ugly, old witch to death after casting a spell on the surprised clergyman and mounting him as though he were a horse to soar in tandem through the night air in unholy flight. As she lies dying in the grass she transforms into a beautiful young girl as the confused Khoma runs from the scene.
Unfortunately the good Brother is assigned to perform a solitary three night prayer vigil over the same dead girl's body a few days later. For three successive evenings he must enter alone into an old wooden church and pray from dusk until dawn for the soul of the "dearly departed" As soon as he begins to pray the witch returns to life and attacks the frightened penitent. If not for the sacred circle he so wisely traced around him before beginning all would be lost.
The sound of the cock crowing to announce daybreak brings the demonic attacks to an end, giving Khoma a respite to eat, sleep, reflect and prepare for the next assault. As you might have guessed the attacks increase in intensity each night until the witch finally decides to call upon powerful demonic forces to assist her. In one final attempt to overcome the hated seminarian she summons forth VIY, the Spirit of Evil and the Devil's Emissary on Earth.
Critique: The '67 film of the supernatural, `VIY - Spirit of Evil' is superbly translated from Ukrainian folklore to the screen by N. Gogal. It is a surreal, macabre and mesmerizing journey into the darker corners of the spirit world done in unique and unforgettable fashion. The imagery is highly imaginative, evocative and disturbing with a noticeable Bermanesque feel. The sequence of the re-animated witch circling the sacred ring attempting to penetrate and attack the young seminarian is superbly done and absolutely unnerving.
My Rating: `VIY - The Spirit of Evil' is a classic, -5 Stars-."
Psychedelic Russian horror.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 12/08/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Viy (Konstantin Yershov, 1967)
Some movies are just too weird to explain, and yet it is the lot of the hapless reviewer that we must try. Such a film is Viy, a Russian film from the sixties (currently being remade by Oleg Stepchenko, by the by, not that we'll ever get a chance to see it in America) that looks for all the world like a Roger Corman monster flick directed by Eisenstein, with someone very, very drunk in charge of the special effects. (Come to think of it, most of Corman's films... oh, forgot I said anything.)
Viy, based on a Nikolai Gogol short story, tells the tale of a bunch of seminary school students out on spring break. (Yes, really.) Seminary school students, it turns out, aren't much different than the rest of us when it comes to spring break; they party it up, with a great deal of alcohol and the requisite number of wenches. (Unfortunately, wet T-shirt contests are not the order of the day in Russia in April.) One of these seminary students is Khoma Brutus (Leonid Kuravlyov, one of Russian cinema's bigwigs, in an early role). As his friends get to their homes, only Khoma Brutus and his two friends Khaliava (the late Vadim Zakharchenko, another chap with a long history in Russian film) and Gorobetz (Vladimir Salnikov, someone American audiences might actually recognize from Mute Witness). The three find lodging, but things are not at all as they seem, senging Khoma Brutus fleeing back to the monastery--where the rector tells him that the mayor of a small town near Kiev desperately needs help; his daughter may be dying. They need prayers to be said over her body for three days, though no one will tell the poor boy why...
I have heard it said that Viy was the first Russian horror film; I have no idea whether that's accurate (and, of course, it depends on how far one wants to stretch one's definition of horror). I do know that it was the first of only four films that Konstantin Yershov would direct in his career (and if IMDB voting is to be counted on as a measure of popularity, it's his most popular by a factor of 75 or so), and for the sheer fun factor, I haven't seen much in Russian cinema, before or since, that compares with it. It's low budget by necessity--even a world-famous director like Tarkovsky couldn't get the budgets he needed in Soviet Russia--but while that leads by definition to cheesy special effects, the acting is superb, the pacing is pitch-perfect, and, as I've said previously in this review, it's a whole lot of fun. If you're looking for a movie to have on in the background at a party, and you want a really good one instead of the Z-grade junk I usually recommend for that purpose, Viy fits the bill to a T (or a V), especially since it's finally available on DVD. Good stuff all around. *** ½