★1/2 out of ★★★★★
A Blair Witch knockoff out of Russia that fails to deliver.
Directed by Ivan Minin
Nikitaaaa? Yukon? Yukon?! Nikita? Yukon!? Kristina?! Kristina!! Yukon? Yukon?? Andrey!
And that pretty much sums up the film.
Sure, the Black Forest vibe that The Widow (a.k.a., Vdova in its original Russian) has going on is gloomily beautiful. Especially in the run-up to the witchy parts when we can see it the daylight. Some places are made for filming horror movies and the dense Russian forest ranks high on that list. Unfortunately, that and a fantastic movie poster are about all the movie has going for it.
The Widow follows the tribulations of a group of would-be rescuers who head into the dark woods near St. Petersburg in search of a missing boy. The team includes a new trainee who’s learning the ropes as well as a reporter who’s documenting a day in the life of a rescue squad.
As the day wears on and the lost boy remains lost — in spite of how many times the team has called the troublesome child’s name — our stalwart gaggle of saviors come across a naked woman in a haystack. While slightly weirded out by a haystack in the woods, the group follows Standard Operating Procedure and chooses to rescue the person they did find. The missing little boy quickly fades from the story as our brave band busies themselves with clothing and saving the haystack lady.
As (bad) luck would have it, though, these rescuers have been stumbling around the woods in which “The Widow” makes her home. A folk tale is shared with the group about the origin of The Widow and we find out that people have been going missing in these self-same woods for the last 30 years. A few of them have eventually turned up as naked corpses, but the rest just disappear.
Obviously, our hapless heroes somehow manage to anger the evil presence in the forest and badness ensues. Most likely it was because of their unquenchable need to call out each others’ names. Constantly. A bit after the midpoint of the film, things devolve into the group members taking turns getting lost while the others yell their name and hunt around. Though she was probably too polite to say it, I’m guessing The Widow just wanted them to shut up.
The Widow has a few jump scares early on, but there are too many of them and they happen too frequently to have any real effect. Other than that, the only “horror” would be getting lost in the woods. Oh, and possibly the haystacks. Those seem to freak out the group every time one shows up.
The screenplay was written by the same team behind Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest (2020) — Natalya Dubovaya and Ivan Kapitonov — who may or may not be attempting to corner the market on forest-based horror. Regardless, the duo were also producers for both films and managed to secure some truly great poster art for each.
And, full disclosure, the version of The Widow I watched was dubbed into English from its original Russian. Normally, I go for the subtitles, but sometimes you take what you can get. Unfortunately, the dubbing in this film was pretty atrocious. Some of the voice talent were obviously phoning in their performances (possibly literally) while others were just plain weird (I’m looking at you, anime-voiced little kid). I’m sure The Widow would be far less annoying in its native language.
As it stands, though, I recommend skipping this one and getting your Russian horror fix with Sputnik (2020) instead.
The Widow is streaming on Amazon and other streaming platforms.
Review by Robert Zilbauer.