Science fiction and fantasy

Night Watch poster

Night Watch

directed by Timur Bekmambetov

The world of Night Watch is populated by light and dark "Others", humans with a variety of supernatural abilities, including vampires. These humans go largely undetected by ordinary people. I'm not sure what's the most refreshing thing about this movie, the new twist it gives to old vampire stories or its modern Eastern European setting, but it's certainly free from the usual clichés.

Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) is an everyman, unglamorous and not much given to heroism. When we first see him he's visiting an old woman with special powers. Rejected by his girlfriend, Anton wants her to lose the baby she is carrying because he fears a child will drive them further apart.

This is when Anton gets his first introduction to the world of the Others. When a group of Night Watch arrive on the scene he finds he can see a world that most people can't, and that he is himself an Other. the forces of dark and light live by an uneasy truce, which the old woman is accused of violating. Night Watch and Day Watch exist to keep each other in line, because open warfare would mean the destruction of both sides.

Twelve years later, and a young boy is being summoned by a vampire. Anton steps in to try to rescue him, but does he even have a right to interfere? Violating the truce is a major crime, but one that's difficult to avoid.

The whole film has a sort of gritty, dirty look, thanks in part to using various down-at-heel settings. Anton isn't any kind of tough guy, and he tends to fare badly in a rumble. This doesn't stop him from trying, though, with quite gory consequences. This isn't a film for the squeamish, and even scenes of healing could leave you feeling queasy. There's no attempt to sanitise or glorify the violence.

The plot thickens when the Night Watch discover a woman at the centre of a terrible curse that affects everyone around her. She only has to look at people or animals for them to die in dreadful accidents.

Vampires, shapeshifters, swirling vortexes and a host of other effects are featured in this movie, yet for all of its supernatural elements it doesn't come across as overly flashy. One of the most distinctive magical effects is the Gloom, a sort of extra dimension that the characters can move through, and also something that seems to have a personality of its own.

Night Watch uses a lot of stylised ultra-close-up photography, tracking things such as the internal workings of a vehicle or the blood travelling through a person's veins on a miniature scale. Sometimes this is justified by the story, but often it is superfluous, a special effect done simply for its own sake. There's also some heavy-handed product placement for a certain brand of non-FairTrade coffee, just so that we all know what all the cool vampire slayers are drinking when they run out of holy water.

On the whole, however, the imagery and visual effects in this film are original enough to be notable. It's a fresh story with an unpredictable ending that should whet your appetite for the sequel. This is adapted from the book by Sergei Lukyanenko, and there is a certain sense that a fair bit has been cut in order to tell the story in just under a couple of hours. Yet if Night Watch has faults, they are minor. It's better and more intriguing than your average vampire movie.

4 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson

Film Details

Year of release: 2005

Categories: Films

Classification: 15

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