FNC 2021: Compartment no.6 (2021)

Compartment No.6 (2021)

Director (and writer): Juho Kuosmanen

Cast: Yuriy Borisov, Seidi Haarla, Dinara Drukarova, Galina Petrova

As a train weaves its way up to the arctic circle, two strangers share a journey that will change their perspective on life. – IMDB

Compartment no. 6 is one of those films where its about an encounter with a stranger which brings on some new realization. Coincidentally, it is one of the type of film premise that I am very drawn to. The film is primarily in Russian but also has some Finnish as well. Its main setting is during a train ride from Moscow to Murmansk as Finnish student Laura and Russian labourer Ljoha have the same trip to make and is assigned to the same compartment. What starts off as unbearable for Laura specifically ends up taking a turn when she starts to know Ljoha more.

These two characters are absolute opposites at first glance. Ljoha starts off as a loud vodka drinking straightforward Russian guy while Laura is sulking in her emotions from doing this trip alone without her girlfriend Irina but also calmly looking forward to seeing the rock paintings to round out her studies. There is an eagerness for Ljoha to know Laura better at first evem if he essentially feels baffled by her desire to go to the middle of nowhere to see these rock paintings. As they do this trip, the changes between the characters together and individually are executes really well. While it feels a lot more on the surface, there is this subtle feeling that connects these two characters together and to the audience. While this train ride seems unbearable at the beginning, the time they spend together end up being rather entertaining. Thinking back, its hard to really specify one single moment that stands out but yet, its the little moments where Laura observes Ljoha or the conversations they have or the friendly gestures extended that gradually makes them into friends. There are undertones of romantic connections here and yet the film leaves that open-ended.

The charm of these sorts of films is mostly character driven and in this sense, Compartment No.6 delivers very well. It does feel at times a little more on the surface but its sufficient to connect with them and their motives. At the same time, the Russian setting and its train ride also has its charm as its not only a tight space but also its many stops reveals a variety of adventures especially since it is in a cold and snowy time. When she goes for a car ride with him to meet an old lady or when Laura invites a Finnish guitar player to their compartment, there is a different dynamic that comes in. The first being one where Laura learns more about Ljoha and the views on life in general between two women while the latter almost feels like an intrusion into their dynamic in the compartment. Much like the train ride also gives the supporting character of the train attendant her own spotlight as she starts off fairly rude but proceeds to being rather nice at the end as well.

Overall, Compartment No. 6 is a really nice film. A good part of it is thanks to a great script that builds up two really good characters and their time together on the train and slightly after. It also is credits to the actor Yuriy Borisov and actress Seidi Haarla that play Ljoha and Laura respectively who captures their roles and delivers their connection and chemistry really well. At the same time, the setting itself its pretty nice. It is fairly isolated the further they go but it emphasizes the contrast between the cold barren outside versus the crowded and tight space inside the train. As a final note, a lot of people seem to compare this to Before Sunrise, which is a film that I haven’t seen yet (but will soon) however, I wouldn’t mind seeing a follow-up on these characters years after just to see what happens to them.

*Watched as part of Festival du Nouveau Cinema coverage – The virtual platform is available until October 31st. You can find the film selections HERE*

Halloween Marathon 2021: The Superdeep (2020)

Welcome to this year’s Halloween Horror Marathon! This is the kick-off post for this year. While I had initially wanted it to be a double feature, I figured that this is a great way to show what this month is going to be about: diving in to the Shudder catalogue especially on the Shudder Originals as much as possible along with some Netflix horror films that I’ve missed this past year or so, plus a few other little fun bits. There will be other stuff as well like TV binges and hopefully books. I have a lot of horror catch-up to do in every department. Also, this year’s highlight, thanks to Shudder’s release of V/H/S 94 will be the V/H/S franchise. As its only 4 films, it’ll be released one film per week. The first V/H/S review will go up in a few days. With that said, the goal is to have a total of 31 reviews at the end whether its in the form of single reviews, double features or TV binges, so maybe not a post everyday but I will definitely try.

With that said, nothing like a Shudder Original to kick things off as we dive into an English dubbed Russian horror thriller called The Superdeep. Let’s go!

The Superdeep (Kolskaya Sverhglubokaya, 2020)

Director (and co-writer): Arseny Syuhin

Cast: Milena Radulovic, Nikita Dyuvbanov, Kirill Kovbas, Sergey Ivanyuk, Vadim Demchog, Nikolay Kovbas, Albina Chaykina

A small research team went down below the surface to find out what secret the world’s deepest borehole was hiding. What they have found turned out to be the greatest threat in history. And the future of humanity is in their hands. – IMDB

The Superdeep is a 2020 Russian sci-fi horror thriller with elements of creature feature and body horror. Running at almost 2 hours, this film has a decent pacing. Aside from some below average effects and some debatable slow motion cinematography choices in various parts, this film is fairly well-executed in premise. If anything, its dubbed in English which for some characters feels a little more obvious which is a peculiar choice as the version to be on Shudder as there’s one part of news broadcast which is in Russian so not exactly sure why this is the case. However, it does a decent job in the dubbing for the most part so its easy to get used to it quickly.

The Superdeep is mostly winning for its premise and setting. The setting takes a lot of credit here as the underground element being a deepest borehole in the world makes for a lot of other dangers mostly from elevation, air pressure and oxygen. The setting itself also has various floors in their underground facility which gradually falls apart. As the characters move through these spaces, the use of space gives the setting a character of its own especially in a relatively unknown area. Plus, from other horror movies, the depths always have something sinister going on and in this case, it feels a lot like an experiment gone wrong bringing in some sense that it drew inspiration from video game Resident Evil 7. I mean in appearance and nature but not exactly what the whole premise is. There are also other inspirations here that draw from perhaps The Thing and Alien which might be the most recognizable. While there are bits that feel familiar, the threat itself is still rather intriguing and has its creepy elements.

If there was anything to criticize about the film, it is the unnecessary frustrating bits where there’s a critical moment set in slow motion which probably was meant to either add drama or anxiety but didn’t seem to achieve it. The already runs at 2 hours so some of these bits seem to be pointless however, thinking more about it, it could be trying to play on the danger element and the pain of it all. In reality, the whole film is fairly decent even if some of the characters are fairly predictable in their place in the film but the setting itself and the danger element is designed well but it all comes crashing to a rather disappointing sort of ending. The ending itself is acceptable if it wasn’t executed the way that it was. However, from the limited Russian films that I’ve seen (I’ve only seen 4 or so at this point), I’m not sure that I’ve seen a film that has given me a very good ending yet even if the whole film itself was a great time overall. It all dials down to whether the sum of its parts is worth your time at the end of the day. For this one, it does on some levels.

While Shudder has a slew of bad and average reviews for The Superdeep (when I saw it), I actually think the opposite. Its a pretty fun premise which did appeal to myself. It had some decent body horror moments and the virus or creature that it creates is decently designed as well. For sure, there are issues with this like the lack of character development and some predictable moments and a very lackluster ending (which I do hope isn’t an attempt to create another film for this world). That isn’t say that I didn’t like the film but the reason that I see this film working is because of the underground facility setting which brings in a lot of other unknown factors that makes this intriguing to watch. Strip that element away and this film probably might not have had the same effect. With all that said, its a decent enough way to kick start this marathon.