The Other can be a frightening concept. As I have discussed before, The Other is anything that is not us. In this movie, “The Other” is anything beyond our normal natural world. This is even more frightening because it comes from a world of secrets and the unknown. Generally, ignorance breeds fear and fear breeds violence and hate. Not knowing what was out in the darkness and why bad things happened gave birth to folktales and religion. Both have their bogeymen who we are told we should fear and perform rituals to protect ourselves from what goes bump in the night. We also are told often to embrace a duality and are told that picking a side will protect us and empower us. However, in the old tales often neither side was really the good guys. If you look at most material covering faeries, both courts are to be marveled at but also feared. Looking at things as Light and Dark without seeing the Gray is dangerous. However, the great thing about fiction is that they can often simplify things so that evil is evil and good is good.
I have been thinking about what makes a monster in these tales of supernatural horror. Do we do bad things because we are a monster or are we a monster because we do bad things? Freddy Krueger was a horrible human being even before he became a dream demon. However, in the Buffyverse, the very act of becoming a vampire removes the soul and usually turns a person evil. Our justice system says that we are innocent until proven guilty. Religion says that it is our actions that define us and not our thoughts. So if you are a vampire who refuses to feed on humans, are you a monster? I think not. However, just watching and experiencing the misdeeds of others can be enough to darken the soul. Police officers and military are often as irreparably changed as gang members and other violent criminals. Hunting vampires can be almost as troubling as being one.
We have yet another foreign horror movie which makes it the sixth of sixteen reviews this year. This one is Russian and might just be the first pure Russian movie I have watched outside of a certain Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode. Yet again, this means that I have no preconceived notions about any of the actors in this movie. The movie stars Konstantin Khabensky as Anton, a man who basically tracks monster criminals on behalf of the Light side. I like how Anton is not perfect and his journey on behalf of the Light is plagued by the temptation of evil. He is a great example of the reluctant hero. I like to think that even when pressed, we are all the reluctant hero. Nobody gets supernatural abilities and suddenly leaps up excited to risk their life. Anton and everybody he meets is hardened by life outside the norm where things are more dangerous.
I really liked the visuals in this movie. Everything is bleak from the very beginning of the movie. The world is full of shadows and muted colors and light is almost a godsend. Even in sunlight, everything is just dark and dangerous looking. It makes light and splashes of color a very welcome contrast. I really love the digital effects of the supernatural world. I especially loved how various vampiric powers and abilities are depicted. For example, vampiric vision makes everything but the veins of a human body invisible, making it easier to feed. There is also some great drawn animation which makes some of the exposition easier to get through. The editing is smooth and keeps the movie clipping along at a pretty good pace. The action is easy to understand and the subtitles made the Russian language clear.
Overall this is a pretty good horror adventure movie. The depiction of the supernatural world just beyond our natural one is one of the most interesting examples I have seen in pop culture. The movie was the top grossing film in Russian history when it was released but the record has since been topped. It is also one of the first Russian blockbusters after the fall of Soviet cinema and is therefore automatically a success. The movie has some great ideas but I would say its only sin is that it is too long. It incorporates two plots that do not ever fully connect. However, I feel like the world building and character work mostly make up for this. I would recommend watching this movie because it is so different in how it depicts the creepier side of things.