Ronda nocturna (Night Watch) (2006)
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When it comes to modern horror films, one of the first things to suffer in the genre is the stories that are told. The story suffers in favor of cheap gross-out moments and the startle and the scare. While “Night Watch” doesn't have quite the scare factor as some of the best horror films, it's excellent story and creepy-cool atmosphere provide a mostly unblemished film experience. The back-story behind the film is in times long, long ago, there was a war being fought between Others of the forces of light and the forces of darkness. Others are beings such as shape-shifters, vampires, seers and witches. In the fighting, the leaders of both sides realized that they were evenly matched, and that the conflict would only lead to the destruction of both sides. So, they agreed to a truce. The forces of light would make up the Night Watch and police the forces of dark, while the forces of dark would form the Day Watch and police the forces of light. No Other could be forced to choose between one side or the other, he or she must choose of his or her own free will. However, legends for told of one greater Other who would tip the balance towards one side or the other, breaking the truce, and whatever side he chose would win the war. The protagonist of the story is Anton, a member of the Night Watch, who learned he was an Other when he approached a witch, whose powers he doubted, to get his wife back to him. He learned he was an Other when the witch was arrested for practicing dark magic. Anton chose the light, and became a member of Night Watch, though for the 12 years since he became part of Night Watch he hasn't quite gotten the hang of things. Story wise, the film is pretty solid. As it is the first part of a trilogy, there are many loose ends left to be tied up. However, we do get closure on various points in the film, and the script does a pretty good job of setting up the ground rules and laying out the cast. The acting seems solid. The film is subtitled, so those who don't like to read during the movie might want to avoid this film. As the majority of the film's dialog is in Russian, it's a little difficult to figure out when and if the cast is hamming it up, and when the acting is at the norm for modern Russian film. That said, the subtitles are very well done, and I have never seen the subtitles done like this before. It can be a little hard to follow at parts, and the subtitle effects can be a little distracting. However, the subtitle effects really add to the film's atmosphere. The special effects are alright. Certain parts, like the showing of the veins and nervous system early on in the film, are over-used. Also, the rapid jump-cuts in some of the fight scenes seriously seem almost fast enough to trigger an epileptic seizure. However, other effects, such as the Gloom, as well as depiction of the crows in the film, are very well done and compliment the film well. Certain bits though, either seem out of place in the majority of the film, too over-the-top even for a film of this genre, or both. All in all, the film's is pretty. The rapid-fire jump-cuts get annoying, and the music, while good, seems to clash with certain scenes. The direction and cinematography really help build up the film's creepy-cool atmosphere, adding up to an enjoyable ride, with a few small flaws which still leave the film enjoyable. I give “Night Watch (Nochnoi Dozor)” and 8 out of 10.
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