CINE-WEEN: NIGHT WATCH

Night Watch might not be a standard “Halloween” film since it falls more under the category of thriller than straight up horror, however it focuses on warring supernatural types called “Others” – one set of which are vampires, there’s lots of blood, a lot of creepy scenes, and, really, I just think it’s sick. It’s sort of like a Russian version of the Underworld series: there used to be full-scale war between the two groups of Others – the very creatively named Dark and Light – though they eventually reached some sort of a truce to prevent the complete destruction of both groups. They now monitor each other’s activity in modern day Moscow with the Night Watch (when lights go out to supervise vampires) and its inverse the Day Watch. Hijinks ensue.

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Something especially great about this movie is that, like Underworld, it can serve as a sort of parallel for being “alternative.” There is so much lore, so much code, and an overall different viewpoint of the world around the characters that strongly resonates. When the main Light Other, Anton, is riding the metro and sees someone else with strange supernatural qualities – literally only he, out of 100 other people in the car, truly sees and understands. Just like you or I can pick out which one of the many subdivisions of subcultural affiliation someone subscribes to based on appearance; it’s an innate part of who we are, and who they are. Only we don’t have superpowers, we just know the differences between grindcore, powerviolence, and fastcore.

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So anyway, that other Other that Anton sees on the metro happens to have a curse over her head. How do we know? He literally sees a vortex over her head, and when he informs the leader of the Lights, he actually consults a book on Legends of Byzantium and reads out the prophesy for viewers. This is actually an important reference in itself, in that, historically, Russia sees itself as the heir to Byzantium (and by extension – Rome, with Moscow being dubbed “the third Rome” after Constantinople’s fall.) While there isn’t any other reference, however slight, to anything Christian or religious in the movie, the existence of the supernatural does sort of stay in line with the overall mysticism of Orthodox Christianity, and the fact that each Other has their own choice in becoming Dark or Light, presents the same deep moral and spiritual quandary that we’ve grown to expect from Russian arts.

There is also ambiguity, as it is hinted early on, that the “good” Lights use immoral tactics during the Night Watch to entrap Dark Others, and Anton’s vampire neighbor actually assists him in his work – something we don’t really see often when there are two sides that are supposed to be bitter enemies. And why shouldn’t they help each other, if there is a truce in place? Are they really so different? All Others are cut from one cloth, not two separate ones. So, no, their makeup is the same, it’s just a matter of how they chose (or were forced to choose) sides.

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So if in the last few days before Halloween you want to touch on some different dark emotions, and wonder if there is a true dividing line between good and evil, check out Night Watch, if only to see someone tell a Russian security officer that he is, indeed, drunk – but on blood.

David Hayter

David Hayter

I'm David Hayter, currently living out my lifelong dream of being a Southerner in Richmond, VA.I am a student of Russian Studies here, and focus mostly on contemporary politics, though a fair amount of history and socialist theory is inevitable.I speak Russian of course, as well as Spanish and Chinese.I enjoy cycling, olympic lifting, bougie coffee and frugal cooking.My favorite color is purple, and my two favorite genres of music are Opera and Jean-Shorts Fight-Metal.I live my life according to the Gospel as revealed by St. Karl.
David Hayter
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