In DVD/Blu-ray by Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Bursting with startling imagery, Viy has long been hailed as one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

In 19th century Russia, a seminary student is forced to spend three nights with the corpse of a beautiful young witch. But when she rises from the dead to seduce him, what results is a whirl-wind of fear, desire, and demonic mayhem.

The ground-breaking gothic folktale was the first horror movie made in Soviet-era Russia, and has been remade many times—most recently as TV series, which was recut as a three-films, for Amazon Prime. However, this is the original and by far the best version of the tale.

In Viy, directors, Konstantin Yershov, Georgi Kropachyov, and artistic director Aleksandr Ptushko created something truly unique. A film that is both cult and kitsch, cool and compelling. But what really makes Viy so memorable are Ptushko’s stunning practical effects, which bring Nikolai Gogol’s classic tale so vividly to life. If you can imagine the Soviet equivalent of Willis O’Brien, Ray Harryhausen, or even Mario Bava, then the results are as striking and as bizarre as you’d expect. The coffin-riding-witch truly has to be seen to be believed. 

Compared to modern horrors, Viy has more in common with Sam Raimi’s first, no-budget Evil Dead. There’s a lot of dark humour here, and very little real terror. But while Viy’s film-makers clearly had to make-do with the limited technology on offer in 1967, they had more than enough audacity to compensate. The result is a film so chock-a-block with energy and daring that you can’t help but applaud. If you’re looking for a cheesy old horror to watch and laugh at, then move along. Viy may be a bit creaky along the seams, but it’s also a surprising and wholly  original piece of film-making.  

The Masters of Cinema new release presents Viy in its UK debut on Blu-ray from a HD restoration of the original film. Presented as a Limited Two-Disc Blu-ray Edition (3000 Copies Only) the Bonus Disc also contains A Holy Place. This adaptation of Nikolai Gogol’s short story is a stunning example of Serbian Gothic cinema, described by critic Dejan Ognjanovic as “an unparalleled excess of perversity and terror”. The Limited Edition bonus disc also includes a new interview with Kadijevic.