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Getting lost, wandering home whilst on leave from his seminary, novice monk Khoma stays in the barn of an old woman. A scuffle breaks out. Later, he is summoned to stand and pray over a young dead woman, in the local church, for three nights. It is here that, while in the long, dark nights of the locked doors, the dead regain life, the souls of Hell taunt the young monk to near terrifying insanity, and the test of Faith will be as powerful as the witches, monsters and the mighty demon Viy who haunt his every step and bay for his very soul. Written by
Viy is perhaps too short and has a slow start but when you stick with it it is really an excellent film that is very Russian in flavour and does its fantasy and horror elements in a most effective way. The scenery is both sumptuous and foreboding, so good in fact that you wish you were there. The film is lovingly shot and the special effects are certainly above-average with Aleksandr Ptushko's(also director of some of the best Russian fantasy films seen by me) style all over them. Another outstanding element is the music, it sets the atmosphere of the film brilliantly, at times lyrical and others surreal. Some have remarked about the influence of composers like Mussorgsky, Prokoviev and Rachmaninov and it's definitely there, the scoring of the creepy and surreal moments in particular have a very Mussorgsky-like wonderful weirdness. The dialogue is witty and thought-provoking, the Tolstoy and Poe comparisons remarked in a previous review are apt as well. The story engages throughout, the fantasy gives a real sense of wonder, the sense of adventure is exciting at least and the horror elements are appropriately creepy and unsettling. The characters are ones you have seen before but they really help to carry the film, fit in the atmosphere very well, have personality and all serve a point in some way to the story. All the characters are enthusiastically performed, sometimes with a tendency to be a tad over-theatrical but this is not uncommon for Russian/Soviet fantasy and especially from the 60s and it doesn't hurt things in any shape or form. To conclude, Viy is excellent and well worth watching if not quite a personal favourite. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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