Movie Review: Viy

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Viy (1967)
Directed by Konstanitin Ershov & Georgiy Kropachyov
Starring Leonid Kuravlyov, Natalya Varley, Aleksei Glazyrin, Vadim Zahkarchenko, Nikolai Jutuzov.

There are films in out there that are extremely important in our horror history, ones that make such an impact that they can change the genre itself. George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968) or Mario Bava’s Black Sunday (1960) are two examples that can create a whole new sub-genre of films and/or inspire new generations of filmmakers from that point on.

Then there are films that seemed to have been lost in time, but upon viewing them now, it is like a revelation, seeing something so incredible that you are shocked and amazed at how you had never seen or even heard of this sooner. That is how I felt when I first came across the Russian film Viy. In all the years of paging through reference books or movie guides, even ones that covered films from around the world, I never remember stumbling across this title. Several years ago, when a friend heard about a DVD release of it on a Russian label, we quickly purchased it and were blown away. I remember thinking, once again, how could I have not heard of this before? Now, thanks to the wonderful people at Severin Films, you don’t need a region free player now to enjoy this amazing film.

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Based on the story from Nikolay Gogal, first published in 1835, the story is very simple, with a young student of the church out on a break from his schooling, comes across an old woman, who turns out to be a witch. She pretty much uses him as a broom, riding him through the night sky. He starts shouting prayers to get back to the ground, where he nearly beats her to death with a stick. But now the old woman has transformed into a young woman! He takes off running, making his way back to the church. The second he arrives, he is told that he was specifically asked to go to a nearby village to help pray for the daughter of the village’s elder who had been recently beaten and might not recover. Once he gets there, the young woman, who looks just like the one the old witch turned into, has died and he has to stay with the corpse over the next three nights to read prayers over her. But that first night, when she awakens from her coffin, things get really strange.

While the plot isn’t that intricate, it is the visuals here that will amaze you. Between the special camera tricks they used, the matt paintings, optical effects, makeup and costumes, or just some simple trick photography, watching this now, some 50+ years later, it boggles my brain to see how effective, and downright creepy this film is. From the dead girl riding her coffin like a surfboard, to the creatures coming out of the wall, I can guarantee this film will become a personal favorite. In this day of CGI creations, where new worlds are created, and anything that is thought of can be possible, to watch a film made a half a century ago to achieve these visuals is just stunning and highly unforgettable.

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Severin Films has done a stellar job with this release, giving the viewer an incredible print to make your eyes gleam with excitement. Make sure you order your copy today. This is definitely a must for any film collector.

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