June 30, 2007

Horror Movie Review: Night Watch

I started this latest series of reviews with four movies in mind. Here are links for the reviews of The Descent, Ginger Snaps, and Dog Soldiers. The fourth movie I had in mind is probably the least mainstream of the group, but I'm going to hold off on that one and offer up this bonus review of a flick I watched just this week.

Night Watch (Nochnoy Dozor) (2006)

Tvarich, you must see this movie.

Set in modern day Moscow, we are witnessing the prophesied culmination of a millenium-old power struggle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness.

Notice that I did not say "good" vs. "evil". This is the first film in a trilogy that has a scope reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings.

Ages ago two armies met in battle. The slaughter was terrible, and it became apparent to the two leaders that they were perfectly and evenly matched. The leaders halted the battle to prevent further useless killing and forged an uneasy truce between them.

Still living among humans today are Others, people with extraordinary powers and abilities. They never know what they are until they are called upon by circumstances to be more than human. Once they discover themselves, they must freely choose to join one side or the other. Either dark, or light.

Some of those who control the daytime are designated as Night Watch, to maintain the truce and prevent the forces of darkness from running out of control. If a vampire wishes to take a victim, the Night Watch must approve else the forces of darkness could raise an army of vampires in a short time. There are many other such checks in play that keep the two sides in delicate balance.

At some point, a supremely powerful Other will appear and will change sides, thus disrupting the balance and allowing one side to sweep the field and be finally victorious. The prophecy says that the forces of darkness will ultimately prevail.

Sounds sexy, eh? Guess what? That's all background!

The story revolves around Anton, one of the Night Watch. We see how he discovers that he's an Other, and how small events over a period of years build up to the fulfillment of the prophecy.

I'm not going to give up any more of the plot, but I will talk about the film. It's left up in the air about whether the forces of light are any less evil than the forces of night. Put another way, the film leads you to believe that neither side is necessarily better, rather, they are just different from each other. If the dark forces seem sinister, it's only because of our human perceptions. Old legends more often attribute darkness with bad.

There are a multitude of language options on the disk, including hearing it in the original Russian with English subtitles. The English dubbed version is done really well, so you don't have to feel obligated to read subtitles. I still recommend that you do though, and to be prepared to enjoy a few little surprises.

The visuals are stunning, as are most of the special effects. Some of the scenes are uncomfortably gory. I find it odd that the effect of seeing thousands of warriors being brutally cut to pieces in battle is somehow less disturbing than a scene where two individuals are using scissors as weapons. Human nature, I suppose, and that ability for large-scale rationalization may lie at the bottom of some of mankind's less shining moments.

Even for a horror movie, some of the character's actions seem unreal. More than once I was reminded that these people aren't American or Westernized. What feels natural to a Russian in a given situation may strike you as odd, but the occasional cultural dischords don't detract from the story. If anything, they add to the underlying tension.

If you're confused, the ending nicely recaps all that had gone before, as seen through the filter of understanding how each step ultimately led to the finale. Brilliantly too.

So, to sum up: Night Watch is the first movie in an epic trilogy that takes place in a darker, more sinister universe. If that concept appeals to you, then I highly recommend this movie.

Posted by: Ted at 10:10 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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1 I ordered it online from the Milwaukee library, and found another Night Watch movie, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Laurence Harvey. "English thriller about an upper crust widow whose sanity is questioned when she reports a murder to the police and no body is found."

Posted by: triticale at July 02, 2007 01:28 PM (NEgMl)

2 If you liked part 1 you absolutely MUST see part 2, "Day Watch" (Dnevnoy Dozor), in some countries it is known as "Day Watch - The chalk of fate". it has all the same characters as part 1, the story gets *a lot* clearer and has a better translation, also the special effects are nothing short of astonishing. it's a wonderful mix of history, fantasy, magic, and a touch of thriller/whodunnit, it also offers great humor and combined form an epic saga. it easily matches and occasionally surpasses any big-budget movie hollywood has put out in the last decade. you must keep in mind that occasionally things get lost in translation though so you might need to give some thought to certain pieces of dialogue/situations, and also consider that you are being exposed to a completely different culture so you might find some situations a bit iffy at first.

*go get them both now*, they are excellent to be watched one after the other, and in the right sequence of course.

"Twilight Watch", the 3rd part is in production,

Posted by: Neil at July 10, 2007 01:15 PM (xFUho)

3 Problem is, here in the USA, it hasn't been released yet!!!

Posted by: Ted at July 10, 2007 04:43 PM (7lxqj)

4 I'm in the UK and order stuff from the american amazon site all the time because either we don't have them or yours have added content on them, so for once do the opposite - you can find both movies and a special edition of the first on the british amazon site

http://www.amazon.co.uk

I saw some excerpts off both movies on youtube and shot off to order both. but i was so hyped up that i couldn't wait for the dvds to arrive (and they've not arrived yet!) so in the meantime i donwloaded them from emule - horrible subs made by some kind soul who speaks both english and russian, barely understandable but they are a feast for the eyes and a treat for the mind.

Posted by: Neil at July 22, 2007 05:20 AM (xFUho)

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