A DOLL'S HEAD grows creepy spider legs and attacks a man in a Cliff Huxtable sweater. This is just one of the bizarrely fun scenes in Night Watch, Timur Bekmambetov's 2004 fantasy action movie that shattered all box office records in its native country, Russia, and has finally opened in the United States—and boy, was it worth the wait.
Unnoticed by the rest of Moscow, warring vampires have maintained a quiet, uneasy truce for centuries. The light vampires (known as the "Night Watch") monitor the activities of the dark ones (the "Day Watch"), who in turn, ensure that the delicate balance of the two sides is not disrupted. However, a savior has been prophesied—aren't they always?—who will choose one side and decide the victor once and for all.
From Night Watch's opening battle, which could be mistaken for a scene in The Two Towers, to the familial plot twists and the inner good versus evil turmoil of the Star Wars saga, Night Watch is full of familiar themes—but it presents them in an unmistakably post-Communist Russian light (or dark—the film, like almost all other science fiction-horror-fantasies, takes place almost entirely at night).
But best of all, the movie actually has a soul—it's refreshing to see an effects-driven movie that has moments of humor as well as compelling characters. Because it's based on the first book of Sergei Lukyanenko's trilogy, it isn't hard to find parallels in the epic scope and visually inspired special effects to The Lord of the Rings. But Night Watch is more like The Matrix meets Star Wars—set against concrete skyscrapers, with Konstantin Khabensky's unlikely hero, Anton, serving as Neo's sleepy, goofy counterpart.
The second film of the trilogy, Day Watch, is currently breaking Night Watch's records in Russia—though that's of little relief to those of us stateside who want more Russian vampire action now. Too bad flights to Moscow aren't cheap. I checked.