VIY (1967) – The Dungeon Review!
Viy was recommended to me almost two years ago by the good folks over at 366 Weird Movies. I do get to recommendations…eventually. I have watched a copious amount of 60s films this month and had intended to save the reviews for my Psycho-Delic 60s feature in November. I can’t do it! I’ve seen so many awesome movies from the decade they are crying out for a review. Viy is quite special for being one of the few genre films to come from the Soviet Union. Besides Viy, the only two Soviet Union made films I have seen are Stalker and Solaris both of which are fantastic but aren’t exactly horror. If you know of another please leave me a comment. I’m not sure there have been many horror films made since the fall of the Soviet Union either; I’m sure they exist but I have only seen Day Watch and Night Watch. I would love a recommend if anyone has one! Viy is folklore at its finest. Based on a story by Nikolai Gogol, Viy is heavy on humour and fantasy elements with a dash of horror for good measure.
A young Seminarian known as Khoma Brutus the Philosopher is ordered to pray over a beautiful young woman for three consecutive nights. The beautiful young woman also happens to be a witch and Khoma may need more than just his faith to survive her wake.
Khoma Brutus the Philosopher is not a terribly dedicated seminarian; he is fond of both liquor and ladies. He along with his pals the Theologian and the Orator seek shelter at the home of an old woman. The old woman has her eyes on Khoma who she enthusiastically flirts with. She eventually chases Khoma outside and rides him through the air like a broomstick! This is the first special effect bit and the incident motivates the action for the balance of the film. As I mentioned Viy is heavier with humour and fantasy but it is the horror elements that make it standout among its 60s-era peers. There are some very impressive creatures and effects in the second half of the film. This section is where Khoma spends three nights in a rickety old church with the witch. The witch awakes and terrorizes the hell out of Khoma. Each night she becomes more aggressive resorting to summoning other creatures of the night. The creatures are quite spectacular! I’ve included a couple of pictures to give you just a taste, but there are lots of other visual goodies for you to discover on your own. I really can’t say enough good things about Viy’s effects!
If you were wondering what the significance of Viy’s title was; it is the name of the largest of the summoned creatures. I am not terribly familiar with the writing of Nikolai Gogol and can not comment on how Viy might compare to Gogol’s story. The film is something like a fairy tale with a Greek tragedy vibe (with more humour than tragedy); there is a great deal of humour in this story. It is more fantastical than horrifying but there is definitely an electric and ghoulish vibe in its final chapter. Viy is a lovely film visually in every aspect. The scenery is superb and the remote countryside locale lends greatly to the overall feel of the film. Viy is a folklore fable with a timeless quality. Leonid Kuravlyov is great as Khoma Brutus; some of his reactions are priceless. Viy is a nifty, other-worldly, well-written story with sharp and funny dialog. Viy does have a slower pace but it is certainly none the lesser for it. Viy kept me mesmerized from start to finish. I’ve said too much as usual, but I can’t urge you more strongly to seek out Viy! Viy not only appeals to my horror-filled heart but the child in me, the art-house fan, and the foreign film lover. Highest of recommendations.
Dungeon Rating: 5/5
Directed By: Georgi Kropachyov & Konstantin Yershov
Starring: Leonid Kuravlyov, Natalya Varley, Aleksei Glazyrin, Nikolai Kutuzov, Vadim Zakharchenko, Pyotr Vesklyarov, Vladimir Salnikov, Dmitri Kapka, Stepan Shkurat, G. Sochevko, Nikolai Yakovchenko, Nikolai Panasyev