Russian film, based on a story by Nikolai Gogol from 1835, is more of a spooky fairy tale than a horror film. The Viy tells the story of an arrogant young monk, Khoma (Leonid Kuraviev) who finds shelter one night, when traveling with companions, in the home of an old woman. When the old crone comes to Khoma in the middle of the night, he finds that she is actually a witch who taunts him with her powers and in his panic and fear, he beats her almost to death. As she lays there, she transforms before his eyes into a beautiful young girl (Natalya Varley). Khoma flees in terror back to the monastery, his dark secret with him…or so he thinks. In a horrifying turn of events, Khoma is called upon by a wealthy villager to preside over the body of a young girl found nearly beaten to death. To Khoma’s shock, it is the pretty witch Pannochka that he had encountered and apparently slain. She is the villager’s daughter and on her death bed, she requested that Khoma himself be the monk to preside and pray over her corpse during the three day wake. This means he must spend three nights alone locked in a church with the vengeful young witch’s body. Three nights, each more horrifying then the last.
The Viy plays like a story right out of the Brothers Grimm as the young monk learns the consequences of his wrongful deed the hard way. The visuals are worth watching this for alone and directors Konstantin Ershov and Georgi Kropachyov use them to create some haunting sequences and great atmosphere. The film looks very much like the dark fairy tale that it is and there are some very interestingly designed demonic creatures that appear to taunt our haughty young monk during his nightly vigils including ‘The Viy’ itself. The effects and sets are delightfully old fashioned and only add to the film’s dark fable charm.
A fun, charming and effectively goose-bump inducing supernatural tale that is a favorite of mine during the Halloween season and is highly recommended to those who appreciate something different. The film is available with English subtitles, the trailer below, however, is not.