Monday, February 21, 2022

Evil Boy - weaving Slavic folklore, religion and philosophy

Greetings, commies!

Another foreign horror film to get your blood pumping (or chilling). Evil Boy capitalizes on every parent's greatest nightmare - the unexplained disappearance of a child. How far would you go to bring back the kid you lost? What lies are you willing to tell yourself?


Several years after their son's disappearance, a grieving couple adopts a feral boy, who begins to eerily resemble their child more with each passing day. While the mother believes they have found their son, her husband is certain he died. As strange accidents begin happening around the boy, the pair soon wonders whether they've adopted something not entirely...human.

My thoughts:

Russian generally doesn't generate a ton of horror movies, but the ones that do come out tend to be potent and well-plotted. I wish the original title had been kept -  it translates like "spawn" or "castaway". "Evil Boy" just sounds too campy, almost grindhouse. The movie is anything but grindhouse. It weaves the elements of Slavic folklore, Eastern Orthodox mysticism, sci-fi and psychology. Of course, most horror movies employ the same universal message: don't mess with nature, don't try to bring back the dead, accept loss/defeat. The theme is not necessarily unique, but the execution is extremely effective. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

The Bremen Town Musicians: a Soviet hippie adaptation of a Brothers Grimm tale

Greetings, commies!

Today you are in for a special treat - a Soviet version of "Yellow Submarine". I cannot think of a better way to describe The Bremen Town Musicians. You can see it on YouTube with subtitles. Loosely based on a Brothers Grimm tale, the story features four anthropomorphic farm animals - a donkey, a dog, a cat and a rooster - under the leadership of a handsome troubadour. The adaptation downplays the grisly backstory of the animals - all four were elderly, abused and/or prepared for slaughter by their heartless owners. It was a classic case of outcasts finding solace in each other - a staple of many timeless tales. The cartoon opens with the quintet traveling to perform at a king's palace. 

This cartoon, produced in 1969, is culturally significant and groundbreaking, because it showcases some unabashedly western elements - in contrast with the somber Soviet ideology. The score is rooted in rock-n-roll. The opening song could have been straight out of swingin' London. If you listen to it, you will understand why the score, released on a vinyl, became an instant bestseller. They lyrics were so memorable, and the tune was so hummable! The wild popularity of the cartoon and the soundtrack was met with resistance from the reactionary, anti-West fraction. Some were scandalized by the mod inspired outfit of the Princess and lamented the "toxic influences of the west". 

Clearly, the resistance from the reactionary wing did not prevent the sequel from coming out in 1973 - On the Trail of the Bremen Town Musicians. That one actually flirts with the musical tradition of Broadway!