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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
I bought "Viy" on DVD with some trepidation, worried by comments that it wasn't scary, that the special effects were crude, and it was slow. Don't believe it, unless you are one of those who rate movie horror by the numbers of mutilations and amounts of blood.
Based on a little known and lesser story by Nikolai Gogol, the film actually improves the original with effectively creepy music (where appropriate), and with special effects that were very good for a movie made nearly forty years ago. The carefully faithful adaptation concerns a seminary student on holiday who is propositioned by a hag who turns out to be a witch. She rides him through the air like a broomstick, and when they land he beats her off with a club only to discover that, near death, she has transformed into a beautiful young woman, the daughter of a Cossack chieftain. Her father sends to the seminary for the student because his daughter requested that only he be summoned to read the prayer for the dead three consecutive nights over her corpse. What happens in the locked chapel until dawn during those nights is what the story is about.
It is as scary as most of the Hammer films of the same era, only with Gogol's trademark sense-of-humor. Hammer would have made the witch more grotesque, and the young dead woman sexier. The only let-down is that Viy's appearance at the end of the movie is not very scary and even somewhat comical. But he's only on screen a few seconds. The creatures that crawl out of the walls ahead of Viy are as grotesque as anything to be found in films of that time, and make the lead-up to Viy's arrival very suspenseful
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