We appear to be in the home stretch here. The pain is not as it once was, but it still means I can not type for longer than a few minutes without my wrist hurting or my fingers from going numb. So the dictated reviews and a ridiculous posting schedule continues on.
I swear, pretty much all of the films released by the Soviet Union that I have seen feature some sort of underlying message that supports the government. Even in Viy, a strange horror film depicting a cleric and his trials against a witch, contains the message that if you don’t do your job bad things are going to happen. It has been pointed out by other critics that the moment he stops doing his work is when he is suddenly in danger… quite a message to be pushing.
Maybe this is the game that directors and studios would have to play in order to get their films released to the millions of Soviet citizens. In any case, Viy is an interesting film to watch – least because it shows how far our special effects have come.
The entire film is set up for the penultimate scene where Khoma the cleric is performing the third consecutive night of prayers over a dead girl (who happens to be a witch that he beat to death in a panic a few days earlier). After two nights of grandmother’s footsteps and coffin surfing (seriously) we get a climatic scene of skeletons, demons and the titular Viy. It’s all pretty quaint when we look at it now, especially Viy who is about as scary as Krumm from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.
Being less than 90 minutes long this is a very well paced film with a brilliantly spooky Natalya Varley as the dead girl. Leonid Kuravlyov also gives a great performance as Khoma. To be honest Khoma is not the nicest character (I mean he does beat an old woman to death), but Kuravlyov is able to give him a much needed dose of charisma.
Viy is one of those films that is good for a bad horror movie night. It’s fun enough to watch, but I would not rank it too high on my overall lists for favourite film.
Peter Ibbetson is one of the very few films older films that were added to the 1001 list when they did their most recent overhaul. Who knows, it might be back off it again by the time this goes out in… wow October. It’s weird being six months ahead all the time.
I mention this film falling out of the list because I can not see what warrants the inclusion. The story of two separated meeting up in their dreams is interesting enough, but the film only feels like it is getting going in the final 15-20 minutes. Plus (the rather dashing) Gary Cooper does not even attempt an English accent in his role as the English architect Peter Ibbetson.
Chance is that this film will be out in the next big overhaul. It’s not like I didn’t like it because I did. I thought it was a whole lot better than Red Psalm, Brightness or Caravaggio. The thing is, this film is pleasant and quite middle of the road. The ending might have given me goosebumps… but I am not sure if that is more due to the window being open during a rainstorm.