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VIY

Status: Early pre-production

Production company: SellOut Pictures / Film Council

Crew: Richard Stanley (Screenwriter, attached as director), Justin Hopper (rewrite), Bob Last (producer), Paul Trijbits (executive producer, presumably credited on behalf on Film Council)

Premise: VIY is a vampire story set in a war zone, pouring its main inspiration from the Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol's short story. The main character is a Red Cross doctor serving in Kosovo, who causes the death of a local woman and must then serve in a three night wake next to her body. Eventually, VIY will appear...

The project has been receiving development funds from Film Council for over three years now, with the total amount nearing £50,000 (~$90,000). The latest was given in late April, 2005.

In early 2006, the Film Council listing was changed into 'Beyond Redemption (VIY)'. A title change is possible, but is yet to confirmed.
 

Status update (Jun, 05): Justin Hopper has been hired to perform a rewrite on VIY, as is stated in his CV. Hopper said he's working closely with Stanley in order to maintain the strengths of the script, calling VIY "one of the most atmospheric pieces I've come across".
 

Coverage: "Whilst in Croatia researching a documentary tracing the rise of the Ustashi, and the credibility or otherwise of its links to wartime Nazi collaborators, Stanley was handed an unlabeled VHS tape. (His Ustashi documentary was subsequently cancelled by Channel 4).

U.B., author of a recent UN conference paper Wandervogel or Frei Corps: Resurgent Nationalism and the Far Right, worked on the documentary as a researcher. 'The tape, although without identification or attribution of any kind, appeared to be a transfer of archive film made by Soviet military psy-ops and forensic specialists seconded to a Yugoslav unit in the Balkans in an attempt to put an end to an unexplained cluster of murders in a militarily sensitive zone.'

'Although the tape is incomplete and confused, it appears there was a fear that the killings were the work of a precursor of the modern Ustashi, possibly early signs of the same resistance that led to the subsequent collapse of Yugoslavia, an explanation that conflicted with both local superstition and the rational instincts of the state organizations responsible for local public order and security. The fragmentary tape suggests that the operation/investigation lacked a clear outcome. In some footage the Soviet operatives, unable to secure evidence of rebel action or NATO psy-ops, appear to contemplate local superstitions seriously, even to the extent of attempting to catalogue and categorize phenomena for future research and including shocking quasi-methodical attempts to re-create conditions of fear and disorientation in local inhabitants.'

It is this tape that inspired Richard Stanley to write VIY, a contemporary staging of a tale oft told in the Balkans. "Viy", a name which rings like the shrill cry of a bird in the dark. A name given by the southern and central Europeans to the lord of the Undead."
 
[Text and picture from SellOutPictures.com.]

Stanley has set to re-introduce the VIY character, whom - perhaps surprisingly - is older than several other horror icons, like Dracula or the Frankenstein monster.

"The film is set in the present day, Central Europe. It involves a team of UN blue helmets in the midst of a disintegrating Europe safeguarding a Bosnian Muslim safe haven, who fall prey to VIY. It is on the same speed as Dust Devil, but a little different. [...] The whole thing is told in a testimony at the war crimes trial later. People try to explain what happened."
 
[Richard Stanley in Sex & Guts Magazine #3.]

VIY, or Spirit of Evil (Rel. 1967)

VIY is also a short story by Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol, based on a myth he heard from the peasants. VIY, or Spirit of Evil tells about a priest named Thomas Brutus, who is asked to stay three nights on the side of a recently deceased woman. No sweat, until Thomas finds out that the woman was supposedly a witch - and isn't so dead after all. The story was filmed in 1967 by Georgy Kropachyov and Konstantin Yershov, under the supervision of the Russian FX guru Aleksandr Ptushko.

The film is praised to be the best (and quite possibly the only) horror film ever made in the Soviet Union. Though its origins may feel less than assuring, VIY is a commendably made horror film. Innovative cinematography was in many ways ahead of its time, bringing the film closer to Evil Dead than a typical late 60's Russian art movie. VIY, or Spirit of Evil was recently released on DVD by Ruscico.

 
 
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