Night Watch, the occult thriller that shattered box office records in Russia, not only represents an alternate universe—it is one. As directed by TV commercial/music video whiz Timur Bekmambetov, the no longer extant Evil Empire reimagines itself. Cold War evaporated, the Manichaean struggle between the forces of light and darkness is waged on Moscow’s streets and subways. Bureaucracy has become metaphysical. Mysterious “others” live among us, issuing licenses for other others to operate as vampires. Bekmambetov’s bombastic special effects have a distinctive sense of decomposing glitz; as an action director he favors a distinctive start-stop rhythm. Night Watch thrives on coarse, sardonic humor; it’s knowingly frugal and proudly cruddy. The veneer of digital vortex whirlpools, visible nervous systems, cosmic video gamers, and secret-agent pop stars notwithstanding, the movie unfolds in an essentially shabby world—the sort of vampire flick that Charles Bukowski might have hallucinated in a skid-row blood bank.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on June 27, 2006