Three young seminary students, whose behaviour could be compared to a mild version of the Three Stooges, lose their way in the woods on the way home from vacation. They spot a farmhouse as night falls, and the old woman there agrees to let them spend the night, but they must sleep in different areas. Khoma, whose monk-like haircut harkens to Moe of the Stooges, sleeps in the barn and is isolated by the old woman, who attempts to seduce him, but succeeds in riding him like a horse…or maybe I should say a Pegasus, as they are shortly airborne. Khoma realizes she’s a witch, demands they return to land where he promptly beats her so hard she turns into a beautiful, but now dying, young girl!
When he returns to the seminary, he is ordered by the Rector to go to a rich merchant’s home, whose daughter is on her deathbed. She has specifically requested for Khoma (by name) to come to her bedside and pray for her. Upon arriving, Khoma discovers this is the same farm where he met the witch, and the merchant’s daughter has passed away, moments before his arrival. Her father promises Khoma 1000 gold pieces if he stands vigil with his daughter’s corpse in the chapel and prays for her soul every night for three nights. This is where things go all Evil Dead.
Viy was directed by Konstantin Yershov and Georgi Kropachyov based on the screenplay co-written by Aleksandr Ptushko, which was further based on the story of the same name by Nikolai Gogol. Leonid Kuravlev and Natalya Varley star.
This was apparently the first horror film released in the USSR (which meant some of the scenes where Viy appears had to be toned down due to restrictions on Soviet film production). A modern version was released in 2012 starring Jason Flemyng, and a Serbian version of the film screened at the Fantasia Festival in 2010. (moviesandmania.com)
It’s worth wading through the very slow and silly (read, drunken and even immature characterizations) first half to get to the three nights where Khoma stands vigil—particularly the second and third nights, where the inventive camera movements (so much spinning) and visuals including demons and hands creep out from the walls. Then, of course, there’s Viy at the very end—and whether you love practical effect/prop demons and monsters for their horrific visages or their pure camp, you’ve gotta love Viy…and also his many demon minions that come piling in before the witch finally summons him. Any monster that needs help opening his eyelids is unique and noteworthy in my opinion. Love it!
Viy and his cohort, as well as the wild camera movements and the creepy chapel set where my very favourite aspects of this film. However, like many a horror movie, it lacked a real (or good) ending. Fans of Sam Raimi's Evil Dead series ought to appreciate this one...find a copy on Amazon below:
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