2014, Movies

Viy aka Forbidden Empire aka Forbidden Kingdom (2014, Oleg Stepchenko)

This is a bizarre Russian horror film starring an English actor (and so dubbed into English, at least on streaming services) that was made in 3D, so it looks extra bizarre on your TV. It is bizarrely listed as “Fantasy” on IMDB and, hence, on streaming services, but it’s horror (ish). I actually saw a film with a similar plot at TIFF last year and it was so much less insane and bizarre. Watching the two of them within a year makes me appreciate the other so much more.


So, where to begin? This film inserts a made up British person based on a real French person into an unrelated story by Gogol. (I don’t believe I’ve read it.) And then I suspect the film deviates rather a lot from the original as it finds its way into Scooby Doo territory.

The colour is utterly bizarre from the start and there is so much CGI at times that the film feels animated, and closer to a video game than a movie, at least in look. This is the one thing that improves as the film goes on.

Jason Flemying was 49 when this movie came out, yet he’s cast as a young man who hasn’t made his way yet, which is bizarre. He is also seemingly an ingenious inventor, but these inventions are, um, not Chekov’s, if you know what I mean.

Why do they all understand each other? They don’t even try to pretend Flemyng has to learn Ukrainian.

Throughout the majority of the film, the spirits and Viy himself are treated as absolutely real. And so that makes the climax and resolution so unsatisfactory even if we can see it coming. One problem with CGI monsters is that it’s very hard to put them back in the bag. (Though this movie wants to have it both ways and so we are told both that they are not real and that they are.)

There’s just too much going on here. I think an animated film, using this CGI, which was a straight up adaptation of the Gogol story might have actually been cool. In part, I think this because some of the CGI is cool looking, as if it was just particularly good art from a video game. But as it is, the film is a giant mess. The occasional subplot of Green’s fiancee, the Scooby Doo villain and his henchmen who all look the same, the various seminary students, the titular monster, the witches – there’s just way too damn much. A better film would have tried to tell one story.


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