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  Night Watch Darkness Falls
Year: 2004
Director: Timur Bekmambetov
Stars: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladmir Menshov, Mariyana Porishina, Galina Tyunina, Anna Dubrovskaya, Dmitry Martinov, Aleksandr Samojlenko, Zhanna Friske, Anna Slyusaryova, Ilya Lagutenko
Genre: Horror, Action, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 4 votes)
Review: Many centuries ago, the forces of darkness and the forces of light were locked in conflict, figures who walked among normal humans but were of greater power. When they finally came to what was to be their last conflict to date, Geser (Vladmir Menshov) could stand the fighting no more and called a truce with his opposite number, a truce that has lasted to this day. However, twelve years ago Anton (Konstantin Khabensky) visited an elderly witch because he wanted assistance from the black arts to make his estranged wife suffer a miscarriage, as she was carrying his son. This ritual nearly worked but for the intervention of the forces of light which pinned the woman to the ground before she could complete it, but not before Anton had taken a potion that enabled him to see those forces - and turned him into a vampire in the process. Now, the child has a terrible importance...

Known as Nochnoy Dozor in its native land, this delirious chaos was scripted by its director, Timur Bekmambetov, with Laeta Kalogridis from the novel by Sergei Lukyanenko and represented Russia's entry into the arena of action horror that was popularised by Hollywood, although in Hollywood's case the results were generally less than satisfying. Here, on the other hand, the results manage to stimulate at a breakneck speed, purely due to the way the film packs in the incident and doesn't pause to explain itself too often. We get an bare bones explanation of what is happening at the opening, and after that are thrown a few sops to just keep the story's head above the water of complete confusion, but mostly the best advice here is to go with the flow and enjoy the ingenuity.

One problem is that you're not sure whose side you should be on, as Anton a) looks like a bad guy, especially considering what we see him try in the second prologue, and b) doesn't seem as if he'll last much beyond the first half hour. But in spite of all that, Anton is our protagonist, and the man we should be following. He is sent on a mission by the forces of light who are further up the food chain than he is to track down a certain twelve year old boy who is suffering a nosebleed. We can guess that this child is his son, but Anton is a bit slow on the uptake, and after a cup of fresh blood he's wandering around in a drunken stupor (so why did the good guys let him drink it?). Of course, he's not the only one seeking the boy, and after a train ride Anton ends up confronting two evil vampires with the boy's life at stake.

There's a lot of backstory which you would presume might be better explained in the novel, but here is reduced to the odd animated sequence or suchlike; it is welcome, as Night Watch moves along so fast that any elaboration comes in handy. For example, we are told that there is a coming apocalypse, and that part of this will be a cursed virgin who unwittingly leaves a trail of death behind her. She turns out to be a nurse who lives with her mother, and she's not the only strange character, no, there is, for example, a stuffed owl who transforms into a real owl and then, rather messily, into a woman who becomes an ally for Anton. It's easy to get lost amongst all this, but somehow Bekmambetov holds it all together with a barrage of clever but overwhelming effects (see the bolt rattling loose from an overhead aeroplane and falling into the nurse's coffee mug). This is the first part of a trilogy, and the finale certainly leaves things open, while still standing up as a film in it own right. It's weird, not to mention frenetic, but enjoyable. Music by Yuri Poteyenko.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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