Slavic tales – a treasure chest filled with mythical creatures is about to be opened. Three feature movies about pagan demigods – Lashy, The Wild Hunt and Vodianoi – are set for production in 2020.
European horror isn’t particularly strong in the Eastern parts, especially when we talk awards. Besides a few exceptions – like an Estonian indie darling November (2017), which I reviewed here – folk horrors from Eastern Europe are a true rarity.
Why is the situation like that? Well, most of the cinema produced in this region has been oscillating around drama or comedies. Czech, Hungarian and Polish films were mostly successful, with several gems from the Balkans circulating around festivals every year.
But the tales of Slavic cultures are rich in gods, monsters and heroes of their own, all bonded by pagan rituals and beliefs. That is one hell of a pool to draw inspirations from, and it’s still rather untouched. Since The Witcher (2019) became such a success for Netflix, these less-explored themes of Slavic folk might experience quite a growth too.
Horrors are on the rise – Slavic folk ones included
Another important thing is that horrors, as a general direction, are extremely popular. While many independent dramas and indie darlings fail to draw attention of cinema goers, horrors are a different story. Filmmakers like Ari Aster, Jordan Peele and Robert Eggers have paved the way, and brought this straight-to-popcorn entertainment to a level of Hollywood favorites.
Given the popularity of horrors, more studios are ready to finance such projects too. And that’s why the series of Slavic folk horrors is beginning its production, with a Slovakian movie entitled Leshy to kick things off.
A Slovakian horror feature ‘Leshy’ starts filming
According to Cineuropa, Lukáš Hanulák’s Leshy is the first out of three feature-length movies about Slavic tales of mythical creatures. The titular Leshy refers to a kind of god of forests that’s mentioned in tales told across several Central and Eastern European countries. That’s what Wikipedia has to say about the creature:
He is known by some to have a propensity to lead travelers astray and abduct children (which he shares with Chort, the “Black One”), which would lead some to believe he is an evil entity. He is, however, also known to have a more neutral disposition towards humans, dependent on the attitudes and behaviours of an individual person, or local population, towards the forest.Source: Wikipedia page about Leshy.
In the Slovakian feature, Leshy will probably leaning towards the “evil entity” version. As described by screenwriter Miro Šifra, who will co-write the story:
This story can be narrated as a romanticized magical drama, which would be more faithful to our local tradition, but horror suits the tale better.
New series of horrors inspired by Slavic mythology
Leshy is planned to be a part of a bigger collaboration between Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland. Filmmakers and producers from these three countries will tie their efforts within a trilogy called Different.
The Czech representative in the series is entitled The Wild Hunt, and features another creepy monster that originates from a local tale. The script will follow a village, which sacrifices newborns to a deadly creature in order to survive.
The last movie – Vodianoi – will be dedicated to tell the tale of another creature, popular mostly among Slavs that lived on the territory of modern Poland. More details were not disclosed yet. The production will be helmed by Jan Komasa, whose Corpus Christi (2019) has been shortlisted for the Oscars 2020.
As revealed by Petr Koubek in an interview on Czech radio, the conjoint effort has a broader objective too. Different could potentially bloom into a series, if any larger studio would be willing to co-finance.
While he three projects are all separate productions, their directors have a common goal. Vodianoi, The Wild Hunt and Leshy will all explore lives of these creatures – how they exist in the shadows and how they are moulded by darkness and their “followers” too.
When will the Slavic horror trio be produced?
The dates are still only rough estimations. However, the three feature movies are set to be completed in 2021. It’s still unclear whether the The Wild Hunt, Leshy and Vodianoi are going to target some major film festivals or seek financing through Netflix or some other streaming platform.
If you’re just as hyped as I am, take a look at a short that inspired the whole news – Leshy (2015), directed by Pavel Soukoup and produced by studio Dark Planet.