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.