By Sam Reeve
My rating: 7/10
Today I bring you a Soviet classic that has been labeled as the first horror film to come out of Russia. This beautifully shot masterpiece is based on a folk tale written by Nikolai Gogol, the Ukrainian-born Russian writer known for his weird, fantastical stories. Viy is more a comedic fantasy than a true horror, but the last 30 minutes feature lots of witchy, demonic action that are definitely worth watching.
Khoma, seminary student, and two of his friends end up in the country looking for a place to sleep. They happen upon an old lady’s farmhouse, but the baba is not quite what she seems. She grabs Khoma and flies off into the night, and he then figures out she’s a witch. After landing, he beats the snot out of her and before passing out she turns into a beautiful maiden. Later at the seminary, Khoma’s rector tells him he must spend three nights reading prayers over the dead body of a lord’s daughter, who was mysteriously beaten up one night.
Each night that Khoma reads, the witch awakens and taunts him. His only protection is a holy circle and his prayers, but will they save him in the end? You’ll just have to find out…
I really loved this movie, and it surprised me. My personal experience with Soviet “comedies” is that they’re pretty dry and sometimes intensely depressing and lacking in jokes. Viy was truly funny, and also bizarre. The animation and special effects in the final scene when all the demons are conjured…it’s a work of art. If you liked Army of Darkness, you may like Viy too. I know I’ll definitely re-watch it in the future.
Here is a clip with the demons that I just mentioned. It’s only in Russian, but nothing too crucial is said. It’s all about the visuals. Below that you’ll find the full movie with English subtitles.
By Sam Reeve
Katakata (Rattle Rattle) is one of three shorts that make up the anthology film Unholy Women. I happened to come across it by its lonesome in Youtubeland, so I haven’t seen the other ones. This one wasn’t a total waste of 30 minutes so it’s worth checking out the whole movie.
Katakata is about a young woman, Kanako, who returns from a date with her fiance, only to be struck on the head by something falling outside her apartment building. She wakes up and continues on, but while getting ready for bed she hears a creepy voice in her apartment, then promptly receives a call from her fiance saying his ex-wife tried to kill him. A knife-wielding woman in red attacks Kanako and chases her around the apartment complex. At first you think she’s human and the ex-wife of her fiance, but that theory is quickly dashed to pieces when she starts moving her body in inhuman ways, crawls around on ceilings, and is able to appear out of nowhere.
Oh, and she also reveals her true form. Pretty fetching, if I do say so myself.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH IT: Besides the fact that you get to watch this hottie (pictured above) chase around an innocent girl, I got nothing. But really, it had its freaky parts: the rattling sound you heard each time the monster lady appeared was like their own version of Jason’s weird hushing noise in Friday the 13th, and they don’t really let up for very long on the horror, so it’s an intense ride.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The ending was pretty cliche. I won’t give it away, because it’ll ruin the first 80% of the movie, which was pretty good. Actually there was kind of a double whammy of cliche at the end, so that was a bummer.
You should still give Katakata a shot, it’s worth the time and good for a quick dose of j-horror. I would also recommend watching all of Unholy Women. I haven’t yet, but the premise for the second one seems hilarious (man must go on date with boss’s sister, who wears a burlap sack during the entire evening out, then shit gets weirder).
Below is Katakata with subtitles in English. Enjoy!