Russian and Soviet cinema is famous for having relatively little horror. There are various reasons put forward for why there are so few Russian horror films. Generally the one that makes most sense is that Russian audiences have seen too many acts of horror in real life to make this genre appealing! After experiencing tens and tens of millions of deaths during the 20th century due to war, famine, economic mismanagement, and communist oppression, Russian and Soviet filmmakers felt little need to create made-up monsters for the big screen. As such, these ten films below don’t quite fit into the horror genre as anglophone cinema knows it. Nevertheless, they all have the ability to horrify, chill, spook, or thrill you in some way! To watch these horrifying films, just click on their title and you’ll be directed to their streaming page on Russian Film Hub. Enjoy!
This infamous film by Elem Klimov is often considered the best war movies and most horrifying film of all time. Set in Belarus during WWII, Come and See may leave you feeling numb and devastated after watching it. The film dramatizes the true events of the war, which saw German occupiers and collaborators burn 628 Belarussian villages with their residents to the ground. This gut-wrenchingly tragic film is one long, violent nightmare. It shows that monsters do exist – and they’re in the mirror, not under your bed.
Viy is generally considered the most famous Russian horror film. In this delightful film based on the Gogol tale of the same name, a young priest attempts to save the soul of a witch with which he has a sordid backstory. After an altercation between them, Khoma slays her, expecting that to be the last he sees of her. However, when he is summoned to a village to pray for the soul of the recently deceased daughter of a nobleman, he discovers that the witch still has revenge to exact on him. Featuring gorgeous, at time kitschy visuals, Viy is a beautiful film to behold. The best version to watch with English subtitles is actually on Amazon here.
Ten Little Indians (aka And Then There Were None) is a disturbing psychological thriller based on the novel by the incomparable English writer, Agatha Christie. This Soviet film adaptation tells the story of ten strangers who gather for a dinner party. The thing is, none of them know who invited them and now they’re all stuck on an isolated island with nowhere to go except for into their dark pasts. Actually to celebrate Halloween 2020, our Russian Film Club is hosting a Sunday, November 1st Watch Party viewing of Ten Little Indians – details here.
Mister Designer is an eerie, mystical drama about an artist who dreams of bringing his magnificent mannequins to life. One day, he succeeds in doing this, but the results are far worse than he expected. While this is by no means a scar movie in the Western sense, it’s a spooky story that’s well worth experiencing – a haunting take on an artist who dared to play God.
Silver Heads is an eccentric science fiction flic about a group of scientists who run a secret experiment trying to combine man and tree. Working in the middle of a secluded forest, they think they’re all alone. However, strange creatures from past experiments roam around them.
Released right before the fall of the Soviet Union, Daddy, Father Frost is Dead reflects the hopelessness many Soviet people felt during this time. They knew something was wrong, but they couldn’t speak up and put their finger on the problem. Reflecting this, the film is almost mute: you’ll hear pretty much only sounds, not speech. It’s as if the characters are trying to say something, but simply can’t. Like Silver Heads, Daddy, Father Frost is Dead features some strange scientific experiments and its share of disturbing events to watch.
Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel is an Estonian sci-fi film based on the eponymous book by the Arkady and Boris Strugatsky brothers (the same writers behind Tarkovsky’s Stalker). After an anonymous tip brings a detective out to a hotel in the Alps, he soon discovers it was a false alarm and then decides to stay the night. However, soon an avalanche cuts the hotel off from the outside world and strange, supernatural events start to occur.
First off, absolutely do not watch this movie unless you are 18+ – it is extremely grotesque!
Anyway, Green Elephant is probably the most recognizably horror genre Russian horror film to Western audiences, with a little bit of Salò mixed in. This little-known film is a psychedelic exploitation film full of violent scenes, graphic (but often hilarious) language, and disturbing messages. Actually, the film is so troubling that it’s banned from mainstream theatrical distribution in Russia. Nevertheless, it has somewhat of a cult following and notorious quotations from it make their way on Russian memes and copypasta.
Dead Daughters is an arthouse horror film set in present-day Moscow. In it the ghosts of three girls killed by their insane mother haunt random Muscovites with gruesome intentions. After picking their victim, they watch over them for three days. If during this period the victim’s moral standards do not meet the mark, the girls brutally murder them.
And here’s one for the ultra old school. Silent films often have a horror-like quality to them, no matter what genre. The grey, underworld-style picture quality, the unspeaking, unsounding characters, the monotone kingdom of shadows – it all take you to a spooky place that doesn’t feel like real life. The Queen of Spades is an early horror film about gambling and secrets that early cinema enthusiasts will surely enjoy watching!
Hope this list helps you find a fun Russian horror film to enjoy this Halloween! 🙂