VIY is the first- and as far as I know the only – Soviet Union horror movie in existence. It’s an obscure film that’s available streaming on Shudder. When I say ‘obscure,’ I mean obscure to me. Before watching this, I’d never heard of it, and I’ve seen a lot of horror movies.
The plot: Khoma is a Russian monk granted time off for the holidays. He and his two traveling companions get lost and end up at a farm. The old woman of the house lets them stay the night, but they all have to sleep in different places. The fact that she tells them that her house is full of people and she’s alone except for the farm animals is a tip-off that she might not be on the up-and-up.
Sure enough, the old woman turns out to be a witch. She hag-rides Khoma, flying him all over the countryside. When dawn breaks, the spell wears off. Khoma beats her half to death and is shocked when she transforms into a beautiful young woman.
Khoma races back to the monastery, but when he arrives there’s more bad news. The daughter of a rich landowner has been found beaten half to death, and wants him to say prayers for her soul. ‘Want’ is a misleading word, because Khoma is going whether he wants to or not. The landowner’s men make sure of that.
The landowner’s daughter dies before Khoma arrives, which means he’s forced to spend three nights locked in a church with a dead body, saying prayers for her soul. Except this young woman isn’t as dead as she seems…
I liked VIY a lot. Khoma isn’t a particularly likable guy, so I didn’t feel sorry for him. The animation is very late 60’s, reminding me of Disney movies I saw as a kid, but still looks fine. The makeup is great. Overall, a fine horror movie that’s as much fantasy as horror. And I still can’t figure out why I’ve never heard of it.
Timecrimes is a sleazy little thriller/scific/horror flick. It’s a Spanish movie, so subtitles. The plot isn’t easy to summarize, but I’ll give it a try. Hector is a middle-aged guy who just bought a home in the country. When the movie starts, he and his wife are in the process of moving into their house. It’s late afternoon, and Hector is unwinding. Hector’s idea of relaxation involves binoculars, and as the movie’s events will show, that’s not because he’s a birdwatcher.
Hector sees a woman in the woods, who proceeds to take off her shirt. He doesn’t say anything to his wife, which is a good character moment. I would tell my wife – hey, there’s a woman running around the woods with no shirt on – but Hector is made of different stuff. He wanders into the woods, binoculars around his neck, searching for the Woman of the Woods.
He finds her, naked and unconscious, propped against a rock. Before he can react, and one of the interesting things about this movie is that I wasn’t sure how he WOULD react, he’s stabbed in the arm by a maniac wearing a pink bandage over his face. Hector runs like hell, and ends up in a nearby scientific facility. Pursued – one might even say herded – by the pink-bandaged man, he ends up inside the facility’s time machine, where he’s transported an hour and a half into the past.
That’s as much summary as I’ll give. I don’t want to say anymore because spoilers, but most people will guess some – not all – of the plot twists. Timecrimes is tough to classify, because it has elements of three genres. The script is well-written enough to pass the believability test. For me, anyway. Things get a little loosie-goosie in the third act, but in general the movie holds together very well.
Hector himself is a creepy protagonist. At best, he’s a voyeur. That didn’t mar my enjoyment of the movie, although Hector’s creepiness and the semi-nudity may be off-putting to some. Bottom line: I liked Timecrimes, but it might not be to everyone’s tastes.