I recently saw an extremely fun and interesting movie called Viy, which is also known as Forbidden Empire. It is based loosely on the classic novella "The Viy" by Russian author Nikolai Gogol. The most basic summary of the novella's plot, is that there is this village of Cossacks in which the chieftain's daughter turns up murdered. Her dying request... is for a certain man to come and pray over her dead body for three nights. The man she calls for indeed does come to pray, as requested... and each night he encounters supernatural forces that only increase on each successive night. During the course of events, the chieftain's daughter turns out to be a witch and the whole village including the chieftain know about her being such, and they are pretty much alright with it (and even tell stories about her dark magical exploits). There is a bit of a twist where it turns out that the whole reason the woman ended up dead to start with is that she took on the guise of an old woman and decided to jump on that man's back (the one she sent for to pray over her), and take him on a joyride through the air using her magical powers. The man stops her by striking her, but in doing so he accidentally kills her. When she is found dead, she is not an old woman anymore but the beautiful young chieftain's daughter. So the man praying over her body is the very same who had killed her. During the course of his nightly prayer vigil, the witch resurrects herself and and ends up summoning a creature known as the Viy... who has eyelids so long, that other dark supernatural creatures have to open the Viy's eyes for it. Its' eyes are opened and it looks at the man, who dies as a result. The old church where this takes place is sealed and abandoned, and no one is surprised the man ended so badly. Now, the movie takes this whole plot and turns it on its' head completely! The movie takes place right after the old church is sealed and abandoned, and we have this English cartographer arriving in order to map out the area for profit. Once he arrives, the Cossack chieftain asks him to find out what really happened in the old church because he wants to reopen it in order to go in and provide his daughter with a decent burial. The local priest, who is a fearmongering fanatic, will not allow anyone near the church, however. Which is why the chieftain needs to send someone that no one in the village knows or expects. Of course, the cartographer will first have to find a way to sneak into the church without being caught! And that is where things begin. Now, in this version of the story, the chieftain's daughter was not actually a witch at all... though everyone tells stories about her and about what took place in the church as if she was. This is due to the superstitions being fed to the villagers by the villainous priest, who wants to keep them from ever knowing the truth, for sinister reasons of his own. The cartographer ends up having his own supernatural things happen to him, but by the end of the movie most everything is explained in a logical, plausible way. The man who came to pray over the woman's body for three nights turns out to be wholly innocent of her death... and before it is all over and done with, the actual murderer is revealed and ends up getting punished for his crime in a rather spectacular fashion. The cartographer comes away from everything certain that nothing supernatural ever actually took place in that village at all... but two highly strange things happen that make us see that indeed there WAS something unusual under the surface after all. One, is that the chieftain's daughter... although not a witch... was definitely in possession of some sort of occult powers after her death. At one point, the cartographer has a vision in which he sees some of the Cossacks turn into monsters, and at the end of the vision... the spirit of the chieftain's daughter appears and takes him before the Viy, who then sets him upon a certain path plot-wise that turns out to be very important to his investigation. In his mind, he probably just figured he had too much to drink and that the vision was a result of that. But later on, when we finally see what is in the church we discover that the chieftain's daughter's body has not even remotely begun to rot (and this is a long enough time after her death that it should have at least begun to do so big time). In the novella, it likewise did not rot so this was a nod to that. And, the more symbolic meaning of people becoming (or acting like) monsters becomes extremely clear as events in the story transpire. So there are signs that rather than being from drink, this was indeed a kind of vision after all! Now, the second thing we see that shows us the supernatural side of things is actually during the credits... it cuts to a short scene in which we see the soul of the murderer being punished (presumably in Hell) by the Viy itself. So in the context of that scene, we have the revelation that the Viy was real after all... which further brings home, the truth behind the cartographer's vision. So the movie walks a find line between being a king of gothic horror detective story with a logical solution to what took place, and a supernatural detective story in which regardless of that there are still forces at work way beyond human comprehension. And that is all part of what, to me, made this movie not just fun but awesome! Also, I always got this impression from the old novella that the Viy was a kind of manifestation of the old god Veles, who was a nature god as well as an underworld god (most of the ancient Slavic deities are actually highly complex and have many facets and aspects to them once you study a lot about them). And in this movie you have some scenes where nature just kind of goes crazy when supernatural things begin to happen, and that kind of to me at least adds to the idea of the Viy being this ancient god whose power is still being made known in various ways. Kind of like one of those H.P. Lovecraft stories in which the Great Old Ones are waking up and crazy things start happening because of it. So while this movie is fun and even silly in spots, there is a lot of depth to the plot when you look at it from an occult Pagan perspective, where things work on many subtle levels. The second movie they did though... Viy 2 (which is also known as Iron Mask) was more of an adventure comedy and simply a continuation of the cartographer's wild adventures across the world, this time to China. It did not have as much of the depth or gothic darkness of the first movie, but I liked it too for what it was. Jackie Chan did well enough in it for having only a smaller role to work with compared to usual, although his character's fight with James Hook as played by Arnold Shwarzenegger was highly overrated for sure! I did like how their storylines ended up, at the end of the movie though. And like with Forbidden Empire, you have two levels in which things happen... the "real" and the supernatural. Although in Iron Mask all of those supernatural events are a lot less nuanced and more directly spelled out. They do bring the cartographer's tale to a very good close at the end of Iron Mask, though, and the fight scenes at the climax involving a certain dragon were just plain awesome. All in all, both movies when taken together were great... but as I said, they are far from blockbuster material so if one goes into them not expecting anything on par with Lord of the Rings or the like then you would not be disappointed. They are fun movies, plain and simple.