Viy to scare the audiences once again

On January 30, 2014 Moscow hosted the premiere of Viy 3D, the newest screen adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s short story written in the first half of the XIX century. The movie is a remake of the 1967 film classic – a breakthrough for horror movie industry in the USSR, revealing what then seemed as outstanding special effects. Unlike what one would usually expect, the newly filmed adaptation is just as good.


Following the tradition of the modern Russian film industry, Oleg Stepchenko, the director and scriptwriter of the film, created a true blockbuster with the latest special effects and fantasy movie computer graphics. The modern tendency to stuff films with tricks rather than sense is quite disturbing and common in Russia, but this one can really be called a masterpiece among all the other high-tech movies produced in this country. Its $28 million budget has fully paid its way and gathered $20 million only a month after it was launched.


Although special effects artists have contributed a lot to the film, the thrilling plot and creeps-giving atmosphere were still the ones to determine the overall horror factor. The brilliant performance of the actors became key for the film’s success. This film gathered a truly star cast: Jason Flemyng, Aleksey Chadov, Agnija Ditkovskytė, Valeri Zolotukhin, Charles Dance.


Jason Flemyng as the cartographer Jonathan Green

Jason Flemyng was invited to play the leading role of an eccentric American scientist (Jonathan Green) who becomes the witness of the events that take place in a Cossack settlement in Ukraine. This new interpretation of the story from a viewpoint of a foreigner gives a new onlooker twist to the well known XIX century plot. The original story by Gogol was noticeably modified: new characters added, the plot was significantly changed and opened up to new planes. What’s most interesting is that the new story developed an increasingly profound perspective on the way of life of that time: the clergy – in a state of decay, the church – desecrated, and the whole village is seized with the fear of evil, even as the roots of evil have already taken over their souls.


This new, uncommon and bold interpretation of Gogol’s short story has evoked a wave of criticism with those remaining tremulously and obsequiously fixed on the originals of Russian ‘classics’; but the idea was to bring a more objective and direct view of the events, rather than to destroy the masterpiece. Yet, even the critics couldn’t refute the fact that the performance of the actors was very expressive and laborious, especially the believable imitation of Ukrainian dialect by the Russian cast.

Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Germany and Great Britain took part in the creation of the new Viy. This international collaboration has produced a good blockbuster-thriller-fantasy film in the best traditions of Hollywood filmmaking. It might have lost much of the contemplative mood of the old movie, so close to the hearts of many Russians, but it seems that the audience today demands the giddy speeds and hi-tech impact for things to truly matter. The 3D solution to Viy definitely satisfies the audience’s hunger for spectacles and thrills. Although the new 2014 screen version of Viy has little resemblance to the iconic 1967 film, it seems to do the trick: being just as popular and terrifying for the modern spectators as the old movie was for the Soviet ones.

This review is a courtesy of our today’s special guest writer Anastasia Chupina. Anastasia is a student at Moscow State Linguistic University, Department of Linguistics.


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