Viy (2014 film)

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Viy. Returning.jpg
Russian film poster
Directed by Oleg Stepchenko
Produced by Alexander Culicov
Leonid Ogorodnikov
Alexey A. Petrukhin
Sergey Sozanovskiy
Written by Aleksandr Karpov
Oleg Stepchenko
Based on "Viy"
by Nikolai Gogol
Music by Anton Garcia
Cinematography Vladimír Smutný
Edited by Oleg Stepchenko
Russian Film Group
Мarins Group Entertainment
Distributed by NBC Universal Russia
Release date
  • 30 January 2014 (2014-01-30) (Russia)
Running time
146 minutes
  • Russia
  • China
  • Czech Republic
  • Ukraine
  • Germany
Language Russian
Budget $18.5 million
Box office $39,539,416

Viy 3D (Russian: Вий, internationally known as Forbidden Empire, and in the UK as The Forbidden Kingdom) is a 2014 dark fantasy film produced by Russian and Ukraine Film Group and Marins Group Entertainment and loosely based on the Nikolai Gogol story Viy. The film was released in cinemas in Russia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan on 30 January 2014, in the United States on 22 May 2015 and in the United Kingdom on 1 June 2015.

The film is directed by Oleg Stepchenko, based on the first manuscript of Nikolai Gogol. The film has been in production since December 2005 and stopped several times due to lack of funding. In October 2012, the filming was completed.[2] Viy was a huge commercial success, even breaking a record for opening weekend in Russia, but was met with mixed reviews in media.[1]


Early 18th century cartographer Jonathan Green undertakes a scientific voyage from Western Europe to the East. Having passed through Transylvania and crossed the Carpathian Mountains, he finds himself in a small village lost in impassable woods of Ukraine. Nothing but chance and heavy fog could bring him to this cursed place. People who live here do not resemble any other people which the traveler saw before that. The villagers, having dug a deep moat to fend themselves from the rest of the world, share a naive belief that they could save themselves from evil, failing to understand that evil has made its nest in their souls and is waiting for an opportunity to gush out upon the world.



In 2006, Russian producer Alexey Petrukhin and Russian director Oleg Stepchenko decided that they wanted to make a film based on the horror story of Viy by Nikolai Gogol. By then, two other projects based on Gogol’s tale were in production, such as Taras Bulba film from 2009 and The Witch from 2006.[3]

In order to secure the title, they needed without any further delay to release the information on the forthcoming project. In the course of three days, they filmed a teaser trailer where the role of Khoma Brutus was played by Petrukhin himself. Only after that did the active production of the film begin. When the teaser was shown in theaters, the script was not yet written and the actors were not cast. The story kept growing and changing until it turned from a simple screen version into a big-budget fantasy thriller.[4][5]

The authors understood that the new times set new rules, so in 2011 they made a difficult but very important decision: they decided re-shoot the picture in 3D, even though half of the footage was already filmed. Conversion was out of the question. The decision to re-shoot was not just a PR trick. The re-shooting was taken seriously—the producers developed an innovative technology that had no parallels in the world.[6]

Viy is an intersection of two great storylines. One is the narrative from Nikolai Gogol’s horror story. The writers used the first edition of the story still untouched by Belinskiy’s proofs. The original version has quite different motifs and the whole narrative focuses on a different kind of drama. What’s more important, this version abounds in secrets and riddles.[7] Thus, Gogol’s immortal story will be screened without cuts. The second storyline is centered on a real person—Guillaume Le Vasseur de Beauplan (1595-1685)—a French traveler and cartographer who was the first to study the Ukrainian territories and their people and culture. His research is included in the book From Transylvania to Muscovy. The producers chose his figure because he was also the first to collect and systematize under one cover Slavic myths and legends. De Beauplan was a prototype of the film’s main character—Jonathan Green.[1]

Filming locations[edit]

Viy was shot in Prague at the Gatteo, Barrandov, and Letnyany studios. These are world-renowned locations called a "European Hollywood", home to the production of many blockbusters, such as Van Helsing, The Brothers Grimm, The Chronicles of Narnia, Casino Royale, Hellboy, Blade. The film’s crew consisted of top professionals with years of movie-making experience.

The castle in England where Green sets out on his journey is doubled in the film by the Czech Sychrov Castle. Despite being a few hundred years old—it was built in 1693—it is the newest castle in the Czech Republic. The legend goes that somewhere in the dungeons of the castle is hidden a treasure guarded by a "Black Lady", a woman dressed in a black gown of mourning. In order to make her figure even scarier, some storytellers began calling the lady of the castle "the Black Widow".[8]

The name became so popular that it turned into a cliché and is used every time a female ghost is depicted. It found its way into hundreds of legends around the world. But the locals take the story quite seriously. In order to not shock the tourists staying in the castle overnight, it is forbidden to move any furniture—by morning all of it will be in its original place. The castle guardians explain that "the lady of the house is putting things in order". Zamek Sychrov serves as a film location for the second time already: in 1972 it was the set for Three Wishes for Cinderella.

Most of filmings sets were built in Czech Republic.


For the location shooting, a life-sized Cossack hamlet, with every historical detail thoroughly reproduced, was built. It included 21 households, a marketplace, a church, a tavern, a mill, a house of pray, and watch towers. Some props were even donated later to historical museums as they were so realistic. The church—the setting for the three notorious nights—was also built for the film from scratch. During the filming of the three nights, the decorators burned over twelve thousand wax candles manufactured according to a special historical design.

The carriage in which the protagonist travels was also designed and built at one of the most famous German automobile manufacturers. The vehicle was designed to be mechanically modern, while its outside appearance was that of a piece of transport from the 18th century. The carriage cost $75,000. A second carriage worth $23,000 was also constructed to double for the interior scenes.

Besides the carriage, the protagonist was equipped with other elaborate technical gadgets—cartographic tools, cryptographic equipment, and even a tablet computer. Costumes were designed by a legend in the Czech movie industry Yarmila Koneczna. She made almost 200 costumes. The main character alone owns six original suits, another seven were made for his doubles and stuntmen.


The film’s cast includes some of the best Russian actors: Alexey Chadov, Agnia Ditkovskite, Andrey Smolyakov, Valeriy Zolotukhin, Nina Ruslanova, Viktor Bychkov, Yuriy Tsurilo, Igor Zhyzhkin, Oleg Taktarov, Anna Churina, Olga Zaytseva, Aleksandr Yakovlev, Aleksandr Karpov, Alexey Ogurtsov, Ivan Mokhovikov, Anatoliy Gushchin. One of the parts in the movie is played by a leading Czech actress Emma Czerna, another by Earlene Bentley, an actress, singer and composer known from the legendary Police Academy and Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. The film also features the celebrated Charles Dance, recognized for his part as Tywin Lannister in Game of Thrones.

Several actors were cast for the lead role of Jonathan Green: Vincent Cassel, Christian Slater, Tim Roth, Sean Bean, Keanu Reeves, Pierce Brosnan, and Jason Statham.[1] The producers had official negotiations with each of the actors. It was Jason Statham who recommended his best friend Jason Flemyng for the lead. Flemyng was soon approved by the director and the producers—they had found a perfect match. Christian Slater, after seeing the footage of the film, said: "I would have killed to appear in Viy! Who is that agent that failed to make me a deal?"[9]

The lead actor Jason Flemyng talks about the film: "If Viy was made in Hollywood, its budget would have reached $200 million, no less. I am impressed by the scale of the production! I have developed a lot of good and friendly connections in the US movie business. I look forward to showing the picture to my close friends: Guy Ritchie, Tom Cruise, Jason Statham, and Brad Pitt. I am sure we will receive good feedback."[10]

Special Effects[edit]

Viy 3D is a complex production. All the stunts and fighting scenes were choreographed by Irzi Kuba – a world-famous Czech battle director often involved in Hollywood pictures. Even though Viy was Kuba’s 500th film, he confessed that it was one of his most complicated and interesting projects.

Special praise goes to the monsters and ogres created specifically for Viy. There are three categories of monsters in the film: made-up artists, animatronics—puppet monsters animated by machines and stunt actors—and virtual 3D ogres. Special make-up artist Petr Gorshenin, who worked on Vysotskiy: Thanks for living on... and other films, said that his work on Viy was the most complicated and important.

The film is shot in real 3D. Stereoscopic design of the film was done by the German company Stereotec.[11] Their most famous recent work is Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters. Special proprietary technology was developed for the film’s 3D effects: rfg_BTS (Beyond The Screen), also called Touch3D. Thanks to this technology, the 3D effects are not only real, they become part of the viewers’ ambiance and the audience becomes part of the film’s action.

The producer, Alexei Petrukhin, said, that originally the film was supposed to be stereoscopic. The scenes that were filmed during the first shooting period (about 20 minutes) were filmed in 2D and postconverted to 3D (in particular, episodes of Pannochka's funeral in the church were filmed that way). In 2011 the production decided to cooperate with Stereotec [12] for the rest of the movie, a worldwide operating, Munich based 3D company. The rest of the picture (the remaining 2 hours) was shot [13] with special 3D rigs from Stereotec and Cameras from ARRI in native 3D.[14]

The live action 3D shooting was led by Director of Stereography Florian Maier and stereographer Michael Laakmann, both from Stereotec. The native 3D shooting took 60 days and was performed in Czech Republic in 2011 and 2012.


Viy: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Film score by Antón García
Released 2014 (2014)
Genre Soundtrack
Label Kronosrecords
Producer Antón García

Antón García has composed and conducted the official score, which include the following tracks:

  • Logo theme
  • Prologue
  • First Night
  • Second Night
  • Third Night
  • Run Jonathan!
  • Miss Dadly
  • Fight
  • Wolves
  • Nastusia
  • Witch
  • Old Church
  • Epilogue


Initially, in order to show that the picture is in production, Alexey Petrukhin and Oleg Stepchenko filmed a teaser trailer, which took them 18 hours to make, where the role of Homa Brutus (character with a bald head) was played by Petrukhin himself. The teaser was shown in cinemas although the script was not yet written and the production of the film actually began a year later.

The announced release date was 12 March 2009 which was timed for the 200th anniversary of Nikolai Gogol, but it was postponed indefinitely since then. After they finished shooting the first film of the trilogy, the producers decided to postpone the premiere until the work on the second film, "Viy 2. Cursed place" («Вий-2. Проклятое место»), is complete.[1]

On 16 June 2010, a sneak preview of some of the finished episodes was held. The show, held in 3D, was organised by the creators of the film for their American guests, who considered distributing the picture in 80 countries around the world.

In April 2012, according to the official website of the trilogy, a new estimated release date was set as 2013. On 15 May 2013, as part of the Cannes Film Festival, RFG representatives has signed an agreement with Universal Pictures, to take part in production as Distribution Company. The film finally appeared in theatres on 30 January 2014.[1]

On 22 May 2015, the film appeared in theatres in United States and on 1 June 2015 in the United Kingdom.


Box office[edit]

The first weekend take was 605.2 million rubles (some $17+ million), which is the all-time record for a Russian movie.[15] It has grossed US$34 million in Russia.[16]

Critical response[edit]

Reception of the film was mixed. According to Russian reviews aggregator Kritikanstvo, Viy holds an approval rating of 57%, based on 39 reviews.[17]

Yury Gladilshchikov in The Moscow News gave a positive review, although he noted that the film lacks target audience, since it is too intellectual for mass production and too simple for educated audience. He also unfavorably compared it with the Sleepy Hollow by Tim Burton.[18]

Mir Fantastiki magazine was more positive about the movie and even named it the best Russian science fiction/fantasy movie of 2014.[19]

Home media[edit]

Theatrical release[edit]

Viy was released on VHS and DVD on June 2014.[1]

Blu-ray edition[edit]

The theatrical Blu-ray version of Viy dubbed to English was released in the US in May 2015.[1]


On 5 April 2015, a press conference was held in InterContinental Hotel in Moscow with producers Alexey Petrukhin and Sergei Selyanov, actors Jason Flemyng, Rutger Hauer, and Anna Yo. During the conference, it was confirmed that the filming of the sequel, titled Viy 2: Journey to China, has been started.[20] The movie was partially shot in China and received help from the Jackie Chan Stunt Team, stunt coordinator He Jun, and operator Man-Ching Ng. The film is scheduled to open in 2017.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h История создания. Часть 1 Вий 3D
  2. ^ Закончились съемки фильма "Вий" 3D, The filming of "Viy 3D" completed, Inter Channel, April 2012, (in Russian)
  3. ^ «Вий»: в меру страшный и очень современный — 30 Января 2014 — Газета «Наша Шумиха»
  4. ^ Монгайт. «ВИЙ» В 3D: Гоголь перевернется в гробу. Часть 1
  5. ^ Ведомости. Панночка с последующим разоблачением. Денис Корсаков
  6. ^ «Вий» выйдет в прокат 23 января 2014 года
  7. ^ получила жалобу на скрытую рекламу водки в фильме «Вий»
  8. ^ Монгайт. «ВИЙ» В 3D: Гоголь перевернется в гробу. Часть 1
  9. ^ Супермодель Наталья Водянова очень хотела сыграть ведьму в фильме «Вий»
  10. ^ Продюсер Александр Куликов о съемках фильма «Вий»
  11. ^ Stereotec brought Viy to the New Level
  12. ^, Stereotec shooting "Viy 3D", January 2014
  13. ^ Interview with Florian Maier about 3D Certification and shooting the Russian 3D feature "Viy"
  14. ^ Фильмы недели: «Август», «Вий», «9 месяцев строгого режима». Милослав Чемоданов. 31 января 2014
  15. ^ Вий" побил кассовый рекорд "Сталинграда (in Russian). 3 February 2014. Retrieved 2014-02-06. 
  16. ^ Scott Roxborough (2014-12-22). "Box Office: 8 International Hits That Challenged the Studio Tentpoles". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2014-12-22. 
  17. ^ Оценки и рецензии на фильм "Вий" (2014)
  18. ^ Gladilshchikov, Yury (31 January 2014). Гоголь-моголь (in Russian). The Moscow News. Retrieved 31 January 2014. 
  19. ^ Лаборатория фантастики. Премия «Итоги года» от журнала «Мир Фантастики»
  20. ^ "VIY 2 -- JOURNEY TO CHINA 2014". Rutger Hauer. Retrieved 30 March 2016. 

External links[edit]