Our spiritual unrest over Viy 3D

Viy. Returning (Вий: Возвращение), (a.k.a. Viy 3D) – is an upcoming Russian horror film based on Nikolai Gogol’s timeless novel ‘Viy’. The creators of Viy Returning claim this is not in any sense a remake of the Soviet classic Viy (1967), but an adaptation of the first edition of Gogol’s novel that they supposedly discovered. Before saying more we must admit that this film project evokes very mixed feelings in us.

As much as we want this film to be good (perhaps out of patriotism, or our love to Gogol and his mystic novel, or our wish for Russia to finally produce at least one scary horror film), we can’t help but feel that there is something fishy about Viy 3D.

Promising stills from the upcoming Viy. Returning

Promising stills from the upcoming Viy. Returning

First of all, the Viy 3D is in production from 2005, and there is no solid information about the release date.

In 2006 Oleg Stepchenko (the director) and Aleksei Petrukhin (one of the producers) quickly shot and released a teaser, although even the script hadn’t been written yet, and the actual production started almost a year later.

In 2008 the news about Viy 3D becoming a trilogy spread, and the whole enterprise started to savour of megalomania.

The film was supposed to see the light in March 2009 – marking the 200th birthday of Nikolai Gogol – but for some reasons didn’t,  and the release date is being pushed back ever since.

Only by March 2012 the shooting was over, and now the picture is in post-production stage. Yet another indeterminate release date was announced – 2013.

The official website of the film is just a still image.

On the set of Viy. Returning

On the set of Viy. Returning

For us all this is clearly a sign that the creators of the film have bitten off more than they can chew, struggling to shape up such an ambitious, demanding and visually complex film; whereas Runet forum dwellers go as far as claiming that the project is just a money laundry.

As there is no film yet, the viewer has to content himself with a making-of documentary and various video diaries of the shooting available online, that are quite pretentiously bragging about how awe-inspiring and innovative the new Viy is going to be.

These materials bombard you with random facts, obviously meant to amaze, such as: twelve thousands natural wax candles made after ancient sketches were used for church scenes; or Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Tim Roth and Pierce Brosnan were invited to try for the role of the main character (although the history is silent as to whether any of them actually turned up for the casting).

Last thing we want to bring up is that as one can see from some sequences of Viy 3D available online, the visual presentation of the witch maiden Pannochka, the Slavonic monstrous feminine that flies in the coffin and has a tooth for theology students, is obviously inspired in the Japanese horror icon Sadako. Long black hair, downward tilt of the head, shuddering movements – all that smells of plagiarism. However, it is excusable, because at some point the Ring virus just had to spread up north.

Viy 3D crossbreeds Pannochka from the Soviet classic and Sadako

Viy 3D crossbreeds Pannochka from the Soviet classic and Sadako

On the positive side, we have to admit that certain plot turns introduced into Gogol’s story by screenwriters of Viy. Returning will definitely make the film at least curious.

For instance, among the new developments in the story is the character of Jonathan Grin, an English cartographer (that in the end was interpreted by Jason Flemyng), who, while travelling on duty, arrives to a secluded village in Malorossiya (or “Little Russia” – modern-day Ukraine), chronologically right after the grim events described by Gogol took place, and tries to tell superstitious figments of local hillbillies from reality.

From all the marketing moves this is most likely the smartest; the foreigner Jonathan Grin lost in the lands of Eastern Europe will above all offer a point of identification to an international viewer and bring a motive of the East-West collision to the story, definitely aiding foreign sales.

Another thing that caught our attention while watching video diaries and the making-of is that, looking past all the pretentious claims and natural wax candles, the art department did a pretty nice job.

The new Viy undoubtedly benefited from the achievements made in prosthetic make-up over the years. On the left: production stills of Viy 3D, on the right: stills from Viy (1967)

The new Viy undoubtedly benefited from the achievements made in prosthetic make-up over the years. On the left: production stills of Viy 3D, on the right: stills from Viy (1967)

Just taking a look at the trailer one can tell that a lot of money and effort was put into the overall look of the film: authenticity of the set, costumes, hair and make-up is simply stunning, and, if all this meticulous work is not going to be ruined by shitty 3D, Viy. Returning will be quite a spectacle.

Guess we can only wait and see. Besides, as a result of Russian Cinema Fund council meeting earlier this year, Viy 3D was named among the projects that are getting financial support in 2013. So hopefully soon enough we will able to enjoy this ambitious Russian 3D horror film in cinema theatres all over the world.

UPDATE: Read our review of Viy 3D here.