By Don Simpson | May 22, 2015
Director: Oleg Stepchenko
Writers: Nikolai Gogol (story), Aleksandr Karpov, Oleg Stepchenko
Starring: Jason Flemyng, Andrey Smolyakov, Aleksey Chadov, Agnia Ditkovskite, Yuriy Tsurilo, Olga Zaytseva, Aleksandr Yakovlev, Igor Jijikine, Valeriy Zolotukhin, Nina Ruslanova, Viktor Bychkov, Ivan Mokhovikov, Anatoliy Gushchin, Aleksey Petrukhin, Aleksandr Karpov, Aleksey Ogurtsov, Emma Cerná
Forbidden Empire, director Oleg Stepchenko’s CGI-heavy adaption of Nikolai Gogol’s 1835 novella Viy, is a narrative mess. Part of the problem is that Forbidden Empire is not a true adaptation of Gogol’s story; instead, it is an ill-conceived sequel, referring to Gogol’s source material primarily during flashbacks. Co-written by Aleksandr Karpov and Stepchenko, Forbidden Empire unravels with no rhyme nor reason; it is a wildly surrealistic fantasy flick that makes absolutely no sense.
For all intents and purposes, Forbidden Empire is a story about Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng), a cartographer who intends to be the first to map Transylvania and the Carpathians. Jonathan fatefully stumbles upon a secluded Cossacks’ village and that is when the narrative slides down a rabbit hole of spectacular proportions. Sprinkled throughout its nonsensical plot threads, Stepchenko’s film takes on the science versus religion debate and the misogynistic tendencies of 18th century Eastern Europe.
While the goofily overdubbed voices are nothing short of distracting, Forbidden Empire seems to be going for some strange sort of campiness. Perhaps the subtitled version of Forbidden Empire might seem like a more legitimate fantasy flick, but this overdubbed mess is too ridiculous to take seriously. And that is too bad, because the environment established by some of the special effects is quite amazing.