A Russian Indie flick shot for under $10 million as the first of a trilogy based on a set of best-selling novels featuring occult-like creatures waging a secret war? And it’s good, too, Comrade.
Anton Gorodetsky (Konstantin Khabensky) learns about “others” when he witnesses the “night watch” (Others who are allied to the forces of Light) bringing charges of illegal witchcraft against a Dark Other. Anton also “awakens” himself and becomes an Other, choosing the side of Light and joining the Night Watch. Twelve years later, a rogue vampire is illegally using her powers to lure an innocent to his death while a cursed woman is fulfilling a prophecy that could bring an end to the world. Are the two incidents related, or is the Night Watch just having a really bad night?
Can’t lie about this; there is a LOT going on in this film, and very little time to tell it. Most if the initial info you need you can get from Anton’s point of view, but concepts like “the gloom” (an out-of-phase Ring-of-Doom-like dimension where Others can hide in plain sight from humans but only for a short time) and “the vortex” (a swirling manifestation of black birds spun as a dark omen but able to be seen on human Doppler radar as an impeding tornado) are presented as is, and either you’re along for the ride or you’re not. Those who are have more than a few treats in store.
The plot is just about as complicated as you can get without a mini-series behind it; from familiar faces to secret betrayals, everything and nothing is as it appears to be, and second-guessing yourself might be exactly what everyone expects. The visuals work just well enough to keep disbelief suspended enough to really get sucked in. For example, the film version I watched was not dubbed, but the subtitles had a life of their own, dark and fierce when spoken one way or light and misty by another character. The entire production seems intent on creating a mood and trapping the audience in it until the very last frame is shown, and for a fantasy film, that’s how it should be done.
It’s important to note that Night Watch is a commitment. While the film does have an ending, it’s also setup for the next two films just as the original book setup the next two novels. Where the story could go after Night Watch is only limited by the budget the filmmakers are working with, but for what they did with only $10 million, it doesn’t seem like any amount offered would go to waste. See it with your bloodsucking neighbor that you never tell your friends about.
(a three skull recommendation out of four)