In this dark fantasy film from Russia , we meet Jonathan Green, and 18th century scientist and cartographer, that due some lady trouble sees himself forced to take a trip around the continent, with the mission to put all the uncharted territory on the map… Literally.
After a random encounter with some monastery ‘s students, and being chased by some weird creatures, Jonathan finds himself in a little village where the law of God has heavy weight on the people. Shortly after his arrival, the scientist learns that the local priest has forbidden the entrance to an old church, deeming it cursed, due that a year before, another student from the monastery failed to guard the corpse of the leader’s daughter by praying for 3 consecutive nights. Being that the girl was was accused of witchery and died on strange circumstances, the rumors about her soul tormenting anyone who tried to return to the church started to spread among the villlagers.
Being a man of science and not believing in superstitions, Jonathan accept the request of the village’s leader, consisting in exploring the area and make a map with the cursed church on the center, something that the priest does not like one bit, since he knows that the creatures lurking on the forest do not like to be disturbed nor want their secrets revealed to the man that dismisses the old traditions.
“Forbidden Empire”, originally titled “Viy” takes elements from Nikolai Gogoi’s short horror story and gives a twist to the apprentice’s tale expanding it with a story of adventure and mystery.
The film has some decent special effects, along with some better ones, but I think we can forgive those minor flaws since the design on the creatures that we see are very interesting and original. Even when we are reminded of works by Sam Raimi and Guilermo Del Toro, and that in some scenes we can appreciate an influence by “Evil Dead 2” and “Army Of Darkness”, at no time they feel like an imitation.
The story has a lot of good parts, the pacing is nice and steady, but the problem that I found is that it tries to show several sub-plots, and at almost two hours of running time, it feels heavy.
Another thing I had trouble with was the dubbing, in this version of the film I had a hard time to tell one character from another since most of the people on the village look very similar (almost shaved heads with only a big long lock of hair and big beards) to make matters worse, the voices were not so different from each other, and in some cases the dialogue felt flat, which makes me think that it might be better to see an subtitled version when available. Some time ago I saw “Blood Glacier”, and word on the street was that the dialogue on the subtitled version was way better than the dubbed version and the lines made more sense. I wonder if that’s also the case on this film.
At the end of the day, “Forbidden Empire” as is being released on the USA, (the original title is “Viy” as far as I could tell) is an entertaining film, but I recommend to see it only if you are not tired and in the mood for a long ride, because it can be confusing at some parts, specially due the points I mentioned before. It has several nice action scenes mixed with some mystery and cool creatures, which makes the film worth a watch, even two.
The cast includes Jason Flemyng (Azazel en “X-men First Class” y Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde en “The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen”), Charles Dance (“Game of Thrones,” The Imitation Game), Igot Jijikine (Safe, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull). The film is directed by: Oleg Stepchenko and written by: Nikolai Gogol (story), Aleksandr Karpov, Oleg Stepchenko.
“Forbidden Empire” get released on VOD May 22nd,2015.
Score 3.5/5 with chances to rise to 4/5 when I see the subtitled version.