I used to think the world of horror solely remained in the firm grasp of the American Film Industry, but with emerging masterpieces from countries like Japan, Poland, and Russia, I have been forced to surrender myself to the new generation of horror masters that span the globe. I have a great deal of respect to these composers of darkness, and applaud them for showing us horror can be much more than just a bucket of blood!
To describe this film, I do have to digress to the importance of how much effort it took to not only make, but to finally reach North America, where it can now be found as well.
NIGHT WATCH (Nochnoy Dozor):
The film was made and directed by Timur Bemambetov, and is partially based upon The Night Watch by Russian novelist Sergei Lukyanenko, which is only the first part of a trilogy of stories which follow after with Twilight Watch, and Final Watch. Although the movie versions have captured the second title as The Day Watch, and rumor has it the third release will be named the Dusk Watch.
To understand the significance of this film is to discover the hardship and tribulations a filmmaker must endure to release such a big-budget film, during the complete collapse of a film industry. Night Watch was just such a movie, with a budget of 4.2 million US; barely a dent in an American production, but for a Soviet based film, this was extreme to say the least, not to mention the difficulty in creating hundreds of visual effects using freelancers and Russian Visual Effect Studios. Most of the work was done using the Internet to share images, across different time zones, using low powered Windows NT workstations to transport the data.
The first appearance at the Moscow Film festival on June 27, 2004, continued to gather a great deal of attention in the movie industry, and became the highest grossing Russian film netting US$ 16.7 million in Russia alone, which attracted Fox Searchlight Pictures which offered to finance the third part of the series, giving U.S. distribution rights for the whole trilogy.
Now one year after the original Russian release, international distribution began, with a London premier at the Odeon West as part of a Fright fest horror film festival that screened it on August 28th, 2005. The full release in the U.S. followed almost a year later on March 03, 2006.
The Night Watch is an intricate tapestry that is finely woven, unlike any other movie or story I have read in many years. You have to give credit, where credit is due, and I will try my best to explain the story, so you may also become a fan like myself.
The story opens to a medieval portal in time, describing a faction of immortal humans with extraordinary powers that are known as the “Others.” The “Others” are segregated in groups of either light or dark that is constantly battling for supremacy. Soon Gessar, lord of the light, determines that the two forces are too evenly balanced and both will surely be destroyed. He then forms a pact of truce with Zavulon, general of dark, in which each faction will form a balance before the coming of the Great One. The light side forms a Night Watch, and the dark side a Day Watch, and balance is soon restored, as prophesized only the Great One could sway this balance.
Later you are introduced to modern day Russia, when alcoholic Night Watch member Anton Gorodetsky, is burdened to find the Great Other before the Day Watch find him, tipping the balance in favor of the Dark Others. As the story progresses, you soon find that the Night Watch is film that is immersed in a world of Vampires, Sages, Magic, and even shape shifters, all who have one goal; to destroy the other side. Most traditional vampire sense has been tossed to the wayside, and new dark possibilities emerge from the intricate world created by this master writer. Vampires still follow most of the original folklore, but they also show new vulnerabilities and prowess. A clearer explanation can be found in how the vampires react to their own image or reflection. Normally a vampire would cower or be unseen in the looking glass, but in Night Watch, some vampires are actually invisible to the naked eye, and can only be seen by the reflection they cast in a mirror. The stealthy vampire can only be detected when a mirror is present, which creates a whole new terror concept in the Night Watch vampire lore.
I am intrigued by the depth of the characters that are involved in the movie, such subtleties like, Anton refusing to accept that he is a killer, feeding on animal blood instead of human flesh like his counter-parts. I especially enjoy the way the story injects new ideals instead of following in the tradition of other horror movies, mixing magic, vampires, and other beasts, to create a surreal universe of darkness and light.
To really give this film justice, I would have to spoil most of the story, which is much too twisted to reveal in just a short review. However I would like to recommend this to anyone who enjoys movies involving vampires, and anything supernatural, because you will not be disappointed in “Night Watch.” I only hope that the American film industry doesn’t try to change what most already think is a perfect formula. The international version is brilliantly filmed, dark and daring, with an illustrious plot that is thick with color. Even the production value of this movie is not to be undersold, since the cinematography and special effects are equal to almost any other big budget American horror movie.
In conclusion, I would like to impose that all my fellow horror fans invest themselves in the Night Watch series. I have already accumulated the translated three-hundred plus page novel, and am waiting with baited breath for the next film in the series. You will not be disappointed when you finally succumb to the dark world of the Night Watch!