The sinister intruder, in a boiler suit and a cabbage patch doll mask, edges towards the girl. Unaware, she is supine on her bed and wearing a video visor. The man. full of longing, moves his hand up and down her body just out of contact. The moment stretches on and on…
The `future of Russian cinema` is what Afisha magazine, the trend spotter of `urban developments in entertainment` has called Pavel Yurevich Ruminov. That makes for a lot for this forty-something Vladivostok born film director to live up to. However he seems to be doing fine: there are two films in the cinema now that have his name on. One of them, Status Single is a goofy romantic comedy featuring the ubiquitous Danila Koslovsky. The other is a sardonic serial killer romp in which most of the unknown cast are killed off….
The hour and a half long suspense thriller, Dislike, saw release this September. The film takes as its backdrop the `soulless` metropolitan social circle already exposed by the writer Sergey Miniaev These guys, though, seem younger and have a craving for approval. Instagram and Youtube constitute their mediums. They are the vloggerati. Elsewhere I have dubbed this age group `Generation Q`. Arslan Khasavov captured them well in 2006:
They arrange invitations, mobile phones, diamonds real or fake In a small heap, photograph them and send the end product of f into the big wide world of the internet (Sense, p-44).
In fact the best known player in Dislike is one Mara Way. Way is a real world Vlogger who makes use of her nubile looks to dispense consumer and lifestyle advice to her many online fans. The thriving environment to which she belongs does throw up some malcontents, however….
A writer for Calvert Journal* has bracketed this picture in with a supposed fashion for hi-tech horrors originating in Russia right now. In particular, the piece mentions Leo Gabriadze’s Russo-American film Unfriended from last year. This horror flick takes place entirely on-line. Nevertheless, aside from the fact that all the characters in it work as vloggers, Dislike itself is almost retro. In fact the plot owes much to the celebrated Soviet period drama Desyat Negrityat from 1985. This was a screen adaptation of Agatha Christie’s 1939 bestseller which we now know in the West as And Then There Were None.
In the revamped scenario it is eight video blog celebrities who get invited, by an energy drinks manufacturer, to spend some time together in a remote but plush dacha. There is one proviso: they must live without internet access. (There are shades here of Russia’s most successful TV show Dom 2).
Soon they find that a cunning dementoid exists in their midst. The anonymous executioner poses the question `Who ordered your murder?` For each incorrect response one of the party will be `disliked` – that is to say dispatched in a gruesome manner….
So this is an of-told tale but one that has been given a twist. Also – and in common with many an American slasher -sex is right at the heart of it. Which is to say the promise of sex but not the act of sex. In this respect it calls to mind a particular slasher from this genre. Jamie Blanks’s Valentine (USA 2001) had a cherub-masked man-boy acting out revenge on the women who had spurned him on previous Valetine’s days.
Diggers, this year’s other Russian cinematic horror, has a monster which emerges from Moscow’s subterranean past; in Dislike the monster is all too human and emerges from right inside modern urban Russian society.
This is not Ruminov’s first attempt at terrifying audiences. Nine years back he gave us Dead Daughters which critics said was something of an arthouse film. Dislike is more mainstream but does boast some impressive graphics.
Also it is drenched in colour – an Elizabethan revenge tragedy with disco lighting.
A film like this could even be a bit nauseating were it not for the black comedy underscoring it all. The director seems well aware of the emptiness of the lives of the main characters. As the closing credits roll, everything is summed up by the image of a revolving glitterball.
The government must protect Russian youth from this kind of spiritual pollution, which only serves to undermine their patriotic vigour. It can do so by taking the lead by banning this filth, and other films like it, and by punishing those responsible for their production.