The Russian Bride

****

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Russian Bride
"Writer/director Michael S Ojeda knows how to exploit audience expectations and keeps us guessing as to which set of Gothic twists is coming next."

A slice of grand guignol from the 2018 Cinepocalypse selection, The Russian Bride is a film so rich in style that one barely expects substance, which means that the subtleties of its narrative come as a nice surprise. It's the story of a Russian woman who has been unlucky in love and decides to try and find a better father for her daughter through internet dating. There she meets a fiftysomething American billionaire, recently bereaved, who spirits them away to his enormous country home. "It's not a house, it's a castle!" exclaims little Dasha (Kristina Primenova); but as they settle in, she begins to feel that something is awry. "It's haunted," she tells her mother, afraid of the big dog who lives there, sure she hears things going bump in the night.

Nina (Oksana Orlan, whose curious resemblance to Laura Palmer contributes a tension of its own) isn't entirely comfortable either. She has an unexpected bereavement to contend with, she's spooked by an apparent warning from a mute servant, and she doesn't like the fact that her new husband (Corbin Benson) uses cocaine. But he's charming and seems ready to go to any lengths to take care of Dasha. Can they make it work? Spiral staircases, wood-panelled walls, heavy velvet curtains and a dead wife's wedding dress say a resounding no.

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Just what is going on is revealed through a series of small clues so discreetly placed that you may now notice them until you watch it a second time. Writer/director Michael S Ojeda knows how to exploit audience expectations and keeps us guessing as to which set of Gothic twists is coming next. Both Orlan and Benson deliver magnificently charismatic performances - histrionic in places but perfectly suited to the setting. Deeply saturated colours, abrupt editing and a swelling score create a world that seems increasingly off-kilter, the camera picking out odd details like a coke-addled brain, but Ojeda knows exactly when to rein it in and generate chills with a pared-down, starkly lit set.

This kind of lush, lurid horror is not to everyone's tastes, but if you're a fan of the genre you'll find it a real treat. The conviction with which it's delivered gives it weight even at its most indulgent, and there's real intelligence behind all the drama. In an age when few films emerge as the product of uncompromised vision, The Russian Bride really makes its mark.

Reviewed on: 27 Jun 2018
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A Russian woman travels to America with her daughter to marry a reclusive billionaire, only to find that all is not as it seemed.

Director: Michael S Ojeda

Writer: Michael S Ojeda

Starring: Oksana Orlan, Corbin Bernsen, Kristina Pimenova, Gregory O'Gallagher

Year: 2018

Country: US

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