Night Watch (2004)
Genre: Fantasy Action Vampire Horror Thriller (Russia)
Starring: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Zolotukhin
Directed By: Timur Bekmambetov (The Arena)
Overview: For centuries 'The Others' have stood guard against one another to ensure that peace is maintained. Now, with war again on the brink, we follow one of The Other of the Light as he polices the Dark on his Moscovian night watch.
Acting: Horror films: Toilet acting? No Problem! Foreign Films: Some of the most spectacular you'll ever see. Foreign Horror? Compromises on each side with the budget having veto rights. Over 4 million bucks might put it on the low end of Hollywood, but that's basically Russia's GDP right now, so yeah, good times.
Cinematography: For the second half of the movie, this had an artistic quality that sets the mood in that subtle Fight Club filters and mild special effects way, as well as some professional camerawork that proves the skill of the crew. For the first half of the film though, I was convulsing on the ground at the Aronofsky-class editing, the stylishly bleak sets and the intense action. My friends laughed at how moved I was. That's why I hate them.
Script: "...And so it will be, until a man emerges who is meant to become the Great One. And, if he chooses the side of Light, then Light will win. But those to whom the truth has been revealed say that he will choose Darkness, for it is easier to kill the Light within oneself, than to scatter the Darkness around..."
Thought I'd spare the confusion about the basics of what this story is about. If you follow the tale as it unfolds, you might be a smidgeon confused, and I wonder how much of that is because of the culture-specific Moscow and how much is the script itself. I doubt it was due to horrible translation because it looked right, but being this confused while watching such a well thought-out production can't be right. Scripts are more than pretty words; you have to let us know what's happening.
Plot: In recent explorations of the Avant-Garde film, I've come to appreciate the misunderstood, the deep subtlety that comes from a nuanced storyline. It still bugs me when it's like that in films that AREN'T Experimental though. This picture is hated by many, and I'm betting it's for this reason. It's confusing and it was either done on purpose or it was just weak storytelling. As for the core Act elements, we have touch of cheese intro that redeems itself, followed by a pretty terrific middle, if not that well written, and an open yet satisfying ending that makes you wonder if there's going to be a sequel. Hint: trilogy means three...
Mood: Pretty intense. Not knowing all the powers of the vampiric 'Others' keeps the mystery alive as to exactly what they are but at the same time it might detract from bringing us closer to the protagonist, his cause and his reasons. I'll chalk up all the mood-killers to a lack of understanding, but it's gorgeous, and even if we don't get what's going on, there's no doubt that these things have been fighting an ages-old battle that they know inside and out.
Overall Rating: 78% (And We Even Watched It At Night)
Aftertaste: It's unfortunate that this failed in the explanations and the lack of mythology, but on the upside, a horror flick that goes on and on blabbing about prophecies and 'The End' and how it's gonna be with the eternal struggle, that gets tiring too. There's a happy medium there somewhere and perhaps the sequel will do a lot to clarify the time between the truce and the present. Either way, I'll be there waiting.