Nevesta Film Review by Zobo With A Shotgun
Are you considering marrying into a Russian family? Well, Nevesta aka The Bride, will certainly give you a few reasons to not take that drastic decision and none of those involves Putin. This independent Russian horror film from director Svyatoslav Podgayevskiy takes the viewer on a journey into the terrors held when it comes to the traditions of a family when the youngest son decides to marry a beautiful and unsuspecting young girl.
Nevesta focuses on the old and unsettling practice of photographing the dead as if they were alive, with painted eyes and propped up necks. During the mid-1800s a professor’s bride-to-be passes away before their ceremony and leaves the man devastated. The only rational thing to do? Find a most-definitely underage village girl and force the spirit of his deceased bride into her body. Fast forward to present day and University student Nastya (Viktoriya Agalakova) has just said yes to becoming the wife of her soul mate Vanya (Vyacheslav Chepurchenko). To finalise the legal agreement they must travel to Vanya’s family home and hold the wedding ceremony there with his family. Once they have arrived, the situation quickly escalates into a sacrificial nightmare with enemies lurking at every corner.
There were three elements of this film that made me really warm to it, even though I presumed I wouldn’t at all. The first element was the use of a known tradition that was regarded as normal during the 1800s, but is now seen as utterly perturbing. The practice of photographing the dead with painted eyes is something that was done all over the world and not just Russia. Many horror films try to be overtly inventive and come up with new ideas that haven’t been used before, but why not revisit something in history that is already horrifying? The second element that grabbed me is the protagonist Nastya. At the beginning of Nevesta, she’s presented as the pretty, slim, blonde who probably is going to make every horror movie mistake possible (the stereotype that us women fucking detest). In fact, she is intelligent, kind and also has her wits about her, as from the moment she steps inside her lover’s family home she understands that the marriage plans for her aren’t quite as they seem. From here, she does everything in her power to protect herself, the innocent children and also Vanya from the subsequent evil, which proves just how strong she is. The third and final element is the relationship between Nastya and Vanya. Although it’s not played on a lot, there isn’t a moment where the audience doubts the relationship between the two of them, and they are always fighting to save one another from evil. Vanya seems like an asshole boyfriend, but we’re proven wrong as he does everything to save his beautiful bride-to-be from a family tradition that could destroy everything.
The only Russian horror film that I’ve previously seen was Philosophy of a Knife and that’s not really the best film to decide on the quality of Russian cinema – it’s on a totally different spectrum. Nevesta hasn’t garnered much attention online and seems to have gone under the radar lately, but that may be due to the fact that it lacks the punch that it seemed so deserving of. For an independent film it’s shot well, coherent in terms of scenes and progression and is acting exceptionally well by all characters, yet it never delivers that stomach-wrenching something that most films need to stand out above the rest.
Regardless of the aforementioned, Nevesta is a film that will not bore you and manages to hold the attention until the very end. It has all the right elements of a horror film that will be liked by the majority that view it. It’s an interesting take on a once disturbing and disconcerting tradition that shows how strange society can be.