A few weeks ago I was invited to write a review on a movie of my choice for the Doom Generation review site, which in their own words is a site of “movie reviews for the sublimely weird.” The site is a real treasure trove of quirky movies and offers an eclectic mix of mainly horror but also other titles which divert from the main stream. As an added bonus it has really high production values (if that term is applicable for a site), a clean look, and is super user friendly.
I loved the experience of guest writing for another site and it is definitely something I’ll be repeating in the future!
My movie of choice was Night Watch, a Russian language film with a supernatural theme. Feel free to read the review below or on their site which features pretty pictures and the trailer too!
Original Title: “Nochnoy dozor”
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
As long as humanity has existed there have been others among us. They are human yet they have abilities beyond those of ordinary men. Witches, sorcerers, shape shifters, the others are as varied as stars in the sky. The others are soldiers in the eternal war; the struggle between dark and light. Light others protected mankind from dark others who plagued and tortured humans…
Night Watch begins with a scene of two fantasy/medieval armies marching towards each other as the above narrative takes place. One is the army of light Others while the opposite is the army of dark Others. As the two armies cross paths on a gothic style bridge a battle erupts.
Geser, the leader of the light Others realizes mid battle that the two forces are equally matched and that mutual assured destruction will be the only outcome of this war. Geser and Zavulon, the leader of the dark Others, agree to a truce under the condition that a body of light Others (the Night Watch), will be formed whose task will be to protect mankind from their dark counterparts. Equally an opposite body of dark Others (Day Watch) will do the same, though it is unclear who they’re protecting.
Fast forward to Moscow in 1992, where a man named Anton tries to procure a supernatural abortion for his estranged wife’s bastard foetus under the pretext that he wants her back from the lover she’s eloped with. The witch who performs the deed, (a dark Other) is interrupted by the Night Watch (in invisible form) in the nick of time, and thus the child is saved. During this exchange it is revealed that Anton is a light Other and can see the response team as they write up the witch for violating the truce. Fast forward another 12 years and now Anton is an active member of the response team and his particular duty/skill is to catch Vampire Others. He tracks a Vampire and his illegally turned girlfriend to an abandoned building as they attempt to drink from a child. In the scuffle that ensues Anton accidentally kills the male Vampire while the boy escapes. Anton must now find him before the starving Vampire girl does. Injured and upset at having killed an Other, Anton returns to Light HQ and is healed by Geser. In assistance to his quest for the Vampire, Geser gives Anton an owl and together they try to find the boy Yegor and stop the Vampire girl. They trace him to his house and there Anton realizes that the boy is in fact the son of his former wife and also an Other.
Night Watch is one of those movies that I’ve wanted to watch for a while but after seeing it I was in two minds about writing a review on it. Visually it is not in the same calibre as a Hollywood blockbuster but it definitely holds its own. It is gritty and pungent with a wonderfully European aesthetic, which was probably the most interesting thing about it. It is peppered with striking details that give it a very quirky feel. When Anton rejects the owl for example, she follows him home and messily takes human woman in the middle of his kitchen. After a bath for which she has waited decades, Anton asks his neighbour for women’s clothes so the owl woman ends up with a 70’s wardrobe and is left wondering if she’s in fashion. It was little touches like this that made an otherwise disjointed movie worthwhile.
I say it’s disjointed because in the middle of trying to find and protect the boy, the narrative appears to go off course. After losing the boy, Anton happens to see a woman on the train with a vortex above her head and reports it to his boss. Gesel tells him the story of a legendary cursed virgin whose powerful spell once opened a vortex allowing the forces of evil into the world. The prophecy forecasts that a cursed virgin will walk the earth once again and a final battle between light and dark will erupt, disrupting the balance forever. In the midst of all this a Great Other will appear and if he takes the side of light, then light will triumph, but there is also the risk he will choose the dark. With a storm brewing and the city plunged in darkness by a power outage Anton and his Other buddies manage to find the Cursed Virgin and undo the spell saving the city from the Vortex. While Anton’s attentions are on the Virgin however, the Vampire girl finds the boy Yegor and a fight ensues in order to save him from her desperate clutches.
The impasse is ended by the arrival of Zavulon who attacks Anton and suddenly the battle of the prophecy between light and dark erupts on the roof of Yegor’s building. In the final scene as Anton and Zavulon fight, Yegor tries to give Anton a protective charm against the Overlord Of Darkness, and in the confusion that ensues the child is almost killed by Anton. Feeling betrayed he asks Anton if he really intended to kill him when Zavulon reveals his trump card, the arrest report of the witch hired 12 years earlier by Anton to perform the supernatural abortion on Yegor’s mother which convinces the boy that Anton wanted him dead and which inevitably forces him to join the forces of Darkness, thus fulfilling the prophecy.
As far as Sci-Fi films go, Night Watch it is unusual and entertaining (though with similarities to Star Wars), but it leaves the viewer with several unanswered questions which is my bugbear with movies of any sort. Never the less, the story had potential and had it been done a little bit differently it could’ve have been an epic film. As it stands however, many parts of the story needed tightening in order to reel the viewer more convincingly into the narrative and the overall universe. I frequently found myself wondering how certain parts fell together as some scenes left me with a sense of the ridiculous rather than in awe; case in point the war on the roof and Zavulon’s use of his own spine as a sword. (Yes seriously!)
Even though it was a really good effort, there were several instances where I felt like I could virtually see the screws that held the plot together and though I wanted to be reeled in, hook, line and sinker, I felt myself sitting on the shore waiting for the line to tighten. Never the less, the atmosphere and the visuals created a movie good enough to be a cult classic and one which is definitely worth a watch.