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Culture news, 02.02.2007 13:07

Very scary movie

dead_daughters By Angelina Davydova

Special to The St. Petersburg Times

Photo:A scene from Pavel Ruminov’s ‘Dead Daughters’ in which three vengeful ghosts torment the living in modern-day Moscow.

"Dead Daughters” (“Myortviye Docheri”), a new Russian horror film that tells the story of the ghosts of three little girls, has critics hailing its PR-savvy young director Pavel Ruminov as a Russian M. Night Shyamalan.

As in the films of the Hollywood-based, India-born director, “Dead Daughters” is a supernatural thriller in which the ghosts of the three girls, who were drowned by their mother years ago, come back to life in contemporary Moscow, first killing the mother, then any witnesses to the crime, then random people who do something wrong within the next three days.

Early in the film the three girls come across a company of Moscow youngsters, all working in trendy areas such as PR for an oil company, design, advertising, and programming, and who lead careless lifestyles. Setting up the question of what is good or evil, the appearance of the vengeful ghosts in their lives leads to terrifying consequences.

The moral criteria ranges from “Don’t betray anyone, kill anyone, rob anyone or listen to Russian radio” to printing out the Ten Commandments from the Internet.

One character chooses to stay at home and do nothing (because “he who does nothing, does nothing bad”), while another actively provokes the ghosts by annoying and harassing strangers.

Yet another tries to do good and to please everyone while another tries to investigate the case and find out the original reason for murders.

Ruminov comes from a short-film art-house background, and the film is shot in sepia style, with the camera wandering across the windows of high-rise blocks or watching cars from above.

Ruminov wisely places scenes of everyday life into the most terrifying suspense scenes. As in many recent Russian films, the camerawork is edgy.

With slick promotion, including an English language site (, “Dead Daughters,” although promoted as a “low-budget” flick, has clear international ambitions with talk already of a U.S. remake.

But one feature of “Dead Daughters” that appeals to Russian audiences is its engagement with eternal “accursed” questions, Dostoevsky-style, such as “What is good? What is bad? How do I live?” The film hardly provides the answers but offers some scary thrills along the way.

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