Friday, March 23, 2018

Guardians of the Night – review

Director: Emilis Velyvis

Release date: 2016

Contains spoilers

I’m going to say it from the get go, this owes such a debt to Night Watch its untrue – though it doesn’t have the grim atmosphere, lyricism or set pieces of the older film – coupled with a lashing of Men in Black (and actually name checks that film/urban legend).

However the vampirism of the Night Watch series can be secondary, whereas these vampires (or, not vampires) take centre stage (and are the bad guys). I say “not vampires” because vampires are dismissed as a product of Hollywood and these are referred to as ghouls… but a rose by any other name…

Ivan Yankovskiy as pasha
So we start with a stairway, the camera work is disorientating, a woman (Lyubov Aksyonova) is bundled up the stairs though we only see a distinctive tattoo on the back of her neck and not her features. A young man, Pasha (Ivan Yankovskiy), follows her. He reaches the roof of the building, he bleeds from the nose and his hands are cut and bloodied. He takes a run off the roof… And awakens screaming. His mother (Ekaterina Volkova) asks if it was the flying dream again.

the tattoo
Pasha is a delivery man and travels Moscow delivering parcels. He notices posters for a Lithuanian singer called Dana – the posters have her facing away from camera and she bears the same tattoo from the dream. He is delivering his last package at the Hilton, a programme on TV mentions Dana is missing and a girl checks in – he notices the tattoo. He asks the concierge for her room number, the concierge gives it whilst also reaching out for the reward offered for information about her.

out of the coffin
A crate is carried into a room and inside it is a coffin. As Stefa (Sabina Akhmedova) fills a glass with blood the chain is removed from the coffin and a desiccated looking corpse stirs. The mummified corpse, Yankul ( Mikhail Evlanov), ignores the blood and leaps after a dove. The bird’s blood is enough to make him appear young again. Meanwhile Pasha is looking to get in to see Dana and Yankul and Stefa have been contacted by the concierge. Stefa stalks on the outside of the building, whilst Yankul and a warrior named Mikhal (Aleksey Dmitriev) head for the room, swatting Pasha out of the way.

They are in the process of taking Dana when humans arrive and engage them. The ghouls show ‘vamp face’ and fight back. Pasha and Dana head to the roof, pursued by Mikhal. Dana calls Pasha a warrior and wants to jump from the building roof – something he is understandably reluctant to do. Suddenly he is tussling with Mikhal and accidentally stakes him with a table leg. Dana escapes and an incredulous Pasha meets Gamayun (Leonid Yarmolnik) who leads “D” division – a government agency whose purpose is to control demons. The creatures we have met are ghouls and the humans are wipping memories with a herbal spray. Eventually it is used on Pasha but he seems to remember and ends up being recruited by D division as a frontiersman – someone sensitive to “alternative life forms”.

So – the ghouls produce fangs and have vamp face, turn to ashen skeletons if staked/have their heart destroyed, are burned by sunlight and by garlic. They are fast and strong and appear to be another species rather than undead (for the main). They can be tasered effectively. Dana is the heir to one of two ghoul families and, according to prophecy, if a ghoul unites with her during the eclipse (due in two days) then they will get ultimate power and overturn the peace with humanity – she is trying to escape that.

Anastasiya Tsoy as the fox spirit
We do get other creatures – most notably a friendly fox spirit (Anastasiya Tsoy) – but the film itself is a workable adventure, slightly derivative of other things and a little by the numbers (in events and reactions) but absolutely watchable. A nice little bit of Russian urban fantasy that perhaps needed a little more grit but has some nice bloody scenes occasionally (the attack of ghouls across the city worked rather well). Some of the effects worked better than others. 6 out of 10.

The imdb page is here.

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