A field trip lands a group of students in the backwoods of Russia. The goal to learn about the countries rich history of folklore and myth. What starts off as an easy grade, just might land our troupe in an early grave, trapped in the middle of a war between a witch coven and their. These kids are about to earn their bonus points, or die.
Modern meets Mythic…
I think the first Russian language film I ever saw was a classic retelling of the Baba Yaga story. It was was on reel2reel I believe. Folklore and myth run quite deep in Eastern European culture and as a fan of the fantastical; it’s all right up my alley. I make it a point to seek out this material in all its forms.
This film attempts to meld old world folklore with modern times and technology; to mixed effect.
I was a little worried at first, as the story starts out with a little too much teen angst. Flashbacks of Twilight. Thankfully the story soon moves on to more adventure/action and high stakes as the group of school kids are picked off for their trouble and destines are revealed. It’s all a tad bit convoluted, but not enough to lose its audience.
Speaking of Destiny
Roughly 20 minutes or so into the film, the focus turns from the aforementioned teen antics to a more action heavy emphasis. You see, our students have stumbled onto the ruins of a village long forgotten. Forgotten, except by one very powerful and ruthless antagonist. Our big bad is a wizard who has survived hundreds of years, growing stronger in his trade and obsessing about the day when he would be able to exact his revenge on his mortal enemies – the witches.
Much of the action involves both the use of magic and modern conveniences like automatic weapons. The witches are very old school, having chosen to remain hidden from society at large. They still live very primitively and their physical weapons are of the hand made kind. Wooden bows and arrows; bone daggers; and fashioned spears.
The wizard and his minions, having continued life among the rest of modern existence, prefer the advancements that the future brings. They’ve stocked up on the latest in military hardware and munitions and even invented a few secret weapons of their own; incorporating magic with said technology.
I rather enjoyed the world that the filmmakers have captured here. From the creepy Russian backwoods, to the utilitarian military bunker. It all feels just right. It’s all great set dressing for the mostly slick action set pieces.
There are several sequences that I think are fresh enough to impress most, and keep the jaded types like myself engaged. If there’s one big criticism I can give the fight sequences, it’s there was a lot wirework used for flying rigs throughout much of the hand to hand fights and it’s all little too obvious. It can be forgiven though as it’s also pretty clear from IMDB profiles that this team isn’t particularly experienced. They did a decent job considering their resumes.
Cliffhangers and Afterthoughts
I’d like to delve more into the storyline, but talking too much about it would spoil the key plot elements. I like the slight twist at the end and the conclusion hints at more films to come. I like where the characters end up so, it wouldn’t be unwelcome to see them all again.
If you can sit through a few minutes of Twilight angst, you’ll be happy you did. Worth a rental at the very least.
Plot and Story gets a C
Action Sequences get a B-
Cinematography and World building get a B+/A-
Overall score for this one is a B-