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Film / Viy

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Viy is a 1967 film from Russia, directed by Konstantin Yershov and Georgi Kropachyov. It is an adaptation of Nikolai Gogol's 1835 novella, Viy.

A group of trainee monks in a seminary are given two weeks's leave. Oddly, they act like Fratbros on spring break. Three of them eventually split off from the drunken carousers, presumably headed off for the same area. They stop for the night at an isolate farmhouse, where things start to get strange.

The farmhouse is inhabited only by a withered old crone of a woman, who agrees to let the three monks stay the night, but insists they stay in different parts of the farmhouse. One, Khoma, she directs to stay in the barn. Khoma is just laying down for the night when the crone enters the farmhouse and tries to seduce him. Khoma recoils, whereupon the woman casts some sort of spell and proceeds to ride him, like a horse. He realizes that she is a witch.

The crone then takes flight, still riding Khoma like a human broomstick. They land, and Khoma turns the tables, grabbing a stick and beating the crone with it. The crone begins to moan that he is killing her, and at that same moment she changes into a beautiful young woman. A shocked Khoma panics and runs away.

He eventually makes it back to the seminary. Soon word reaches the seminary that the local rich landowner's beautiful young daughter is on her deathbed. She wants a priest, to say prayers for her soul...and she has asked for Khoma by name.

This film is sometimes called the only horror movie ever made in the Soviet Union.


  • All Witches Have Cats: A bunch of cats are creeping around the church as Khoma enters to sit vigil with the body of the young woman.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The third evening in the church ends with Khoma motionless on the floor after the spirits attacked him. A coda features his two friends, back at the seminary, talking about how Khoma died because he showed fear—but also wondering if Khoma isn't really dead, and wondering if he might just walk up to them. (He doesn't.)
  • Cobwebs of Disuse: Surprisingly, the village church is festooned with creepy cobwebs appropriate for a horror movie.
  • Cock-a-Doodle Dawn: Each night ends with a rooster crowing with the dawn. This means the witch is de-powered and has to return to her coffin, and on the third night all the demons and evil creatures she summoned have to retreat as well.
  • Cue the Sun: The undead woman can only rise from her coffin and attack Khoma when the sun goes down. When the rooster crows to mark the sunrise, she must retreat to her coffin.
  • Deadly Gaze: Although not directly. Viy being some kind of undead shaman, his gaze penetrated the protective circle around Khoma, so he pointed Khoma out to the rest of the mob.
  • Facecam: This effect is used to center the ugly face of the crone (actually played by a male actor) as she approaches Khoma with sex on her mind.
  • Flying Broomstick: A deeply weird sequence has the witch carrying a broomstick as she flies, but actually riding Khoma instead of the broomstick.
  • Geometric Magic: Khoma is able to protect himself from the witch the first two nights by drawing a simple circle around himself with chalk. The witch is unable to penetrate it. On the third night she summons the spirit Viy, which is able to see inside the circle. This allows all the spirits that the woman has summoned to penetrate the circle and attack Khoma.
  • Hot Witch: The witch, a withered old crone, transforms into a gorgeous young woman as Khoma beats her. He deduces that she has sold her soul to the devil.
  • The Legions of Hell: The young woman summons a whole horde of demons and incubi on the third night, which attack Khoma after Viy somehow allows them to break through the magic circle.
  • Liquid Courage: Khoma tries to steel himself before the second and third nights in the church by drinking vodka. Both times he is so drunk that he can barely stand.
  • No Name Given: The young woman is never named.
  • Ominous Fog: The farmhouse is wreathed with fog, establishing an ominous mood.
  • Ominous Owl: An owl also establishes an ominous mood, hooting as a reluctant Khoma goes into the chapel for the first time.
  • Rule of Three: Per custom, Khoma has to go into the chapel on three nights, to stand vigil and say prayers for the soul of the dead young woman. They turn into three nights of terror as the woman's body is animated by a demon.
  • Title Drop: On the third night the woman calls out "I summon the fury Viy!", and after it appears, she calls it "the great god Viy." It's a bizarre monster with giant eye flaps that have to be lifted up before it can look at Khoma.
  • Wicked Witch: The witch in her old crone form. It's somewhat ambiguous as to what is her true form; she changes into the beautiful young woman after Khoma beats her, and stays that way until she dies, but on the third night after she's caught out of her coffin at sunrise she turns back into the crone.