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If the term “zombie” is not used explicitly (the Russian equivalent is the same: zómbi), it is only a matter of time, as the example of Variant zombi (the Variant of zombie, Evgenii Egorov), released in 1985. This film tells the story of a group of neo-Nazis refugees in Africa and financed by the CIA who kidnap a renowned Soviet scientist, Lesnikov, known for his pacifist positions, to try to make him their accomplice, by drugging him. During a memorable scene, the neo-Nazis succeed in hypnotizing the population of a village which they force to follow them, before being unmasked by the Soviet agents. Visiting   will offer you great support in this case.

  • These three examples constitute a first departure from the picture drawn up by Josephine Woll. While it is true that these films do not belong to the horrific genre, several elements show that it has not entirely deserted cinemas. As we will see now, this nuance is even more visible with films often adapted from literary, Russian and foreign works, where the presences are much more apparent. In fact, the process of faithful adaptation to the original, very common in Soviet cinema, can sometimes resemble a veritable “cultural alibi”.

Presences cluster

These films were released from the end of the 1960s. The best-known example is that of Viï (1967). Considered by Woll as “the exception that proves the rule” in his demonstration on the absence of a horror film in the USSR 19, it is adapted from a new namesake by Nikolai Gogol, in which a Ukrainian student of philosophy in the 17th century must pray at the bedside of a young deceased who turns out to be a witch. For three nights, the forces of Evil are summoned by the dead woman to the church where her coffin remains and finally take away the unfortunate.

Various elements allow us to conclude effectively that it is a rare example where the horrific presences are too numerous to classify the film in the category “fantastic tale”, the label under which it is presented at the time. The dismal place – the church -, the intrusion of the supernatural into the ordinary world, the presence of hemoglobin (in the simple form of a drop of blood, it is true, but underlined by a close-up), the reinforcement of the effect of terror by the circular traveling shot, the incarnation of the monstrosity and the tragic and final appeal – all these elements which make Gogol’s work a fantastic news become once taken to the cinema, a close film horror cinema.

It is plausible to think that Viï also benefited from inspiration from the West:

The 1960s were marked by a certain renewal of the genre with the productions of the British studios Hammer. In the context of cultural exchanges which has been developing since the end of the 1950s, the journeys of Soviets, notably of directors, abroad, a film like The Curse of Frankenstein (The Curse of Frankenstein, Terence Fisher, Great Britain, 1957), where the visual effects were particularly neat, should not have gone unnoticed. This element would suffice to explain the efforts made on make-up in Viï. If the latter is far from being the only film adapted from a fantastic short story before 1985 20, it is, however, the only one which uses such visible means of horrifying presence in its narration – until the end of the 1970s.