Viy - Viy(Blu Ray) [Severin - 2019]Viy is a 1967 horror movie based on the 1835 novella of the same name by Russian literary giant Nikolai Gogol, however, it was not the first version of the story to make it to the big screen, having been adapted previously by Mario Bava as a segment for his 1963 portmanteau, Black Sabbath. On a side note Viy has the somewhat dubious honour of being the first horror movie ever produced in the Soviet Union.
Directed by Konstantin Ershov and Georgiy Kropachyov, Viy tells the story of the 19th century Russian seminary student/philosopher Khoma, who is forced to spend three nights in the company of the corpse of a young woman believed to be a witch. Khoma has his faith put to the test during this time as witches and demons run amok in the church, trying to turn the philosopher from the path of righteousness. Whilst Viy is generally a pretty dark film, it features some well-placed comedic elements that give the film an unusual, but enjoyable twist to the horror formula.
Alongside Gogol’s genuinely unsettling storyline, there are some outstanding performances from the cast in what is one of Russian cinema’s most visually arresting screen adaptions. Viy is a beautifully atmospheric film, dripping with such remarkable imagery, even today it remains one of the most gorgeous films ever committed to celluloid. It features some stunning practical effects for the time, flying witches, vampires, werewolves, gargoyles and more are brought to vivid life during the film’s final act, as the film overdoses on such grotesqueries.
This new disc from Severin features a beautifully restored HD print of this Eastern European classic. The image is clean and crisp, and the colours are vibrant and beautifully rendered. There are also a wealth of really interesting bonus materials, firstly there is the interview with South African film maker Richard Stanley who delves deep into the mythology and lore associated with Gogol’s story, whilst there is also the charming documentary looking at the history of Soviet fantasy and Sci-fi, “From the Woods to the Cosmos” with the historian of Russian cinema, John Leman Riley. This is a truly fascinating piece that delves into a genre of film that is not well known outside of Eastern Europe.
Finally, and probably most interesting of all to cinephiles are three silent short films, The Portrait, Satan Exultant and Queen of Spades: The Portrait tells the story of a haunted painting, and the effect it has on its owner’s dreams. This is a most effective short that features some particularly revolutionary practical effects. Queen of Spades is a 1916 adaption of an Alexandr Pushkin short story. Whilst the storyline is only of moderate interest, it is the number of unusual camera techniques used that makes this such an interesting piece. The final film is Satan Exultant from 1917, Satan arrives at the house of a pastor and tries to tempt him, his household and his congregation to break their vows. It is most notable for some great makeup used to depict the titular character.
Overall, this is a wonderful upgrade on every previous release of this Russian classic, the film looks absolutely stunning and the disc features some well curated bonus material that is worth the cost of this Bluray on its own. If you love classic genre cinema or have an interest in Eastern European cinema then this disc is an absolute must have.Darren Charles