Every so often, a dark, twisted but interesting movie comes along that may put viewers off at first glance but it will somehow pull you into its dark world and won’t let go. Pan’s Labyrinth was one of those films and is one of my all time favorites to this day. So when I learned about Russian director Oleg Stepchenko and his film Forbidden Empire had that same dark look and feel, I had to view it. While it might not be an instant classic as Pan’s Labyrinth was, it’s still packed with enough Slavic folklore to keep those who watch just entranced enough to see it through to the end.
The story follows ambitious 18th century cartographer Jonathan Green (Jason Flemyng) who sets out to make extremely detailed maps for some of the most remote parts of eastern Europe. Along his journey, he comes across a forgotten village that’s filled with superstitious people who believe all sorts of supernatural things are attacking them. As a scientist, Green obviously doesn’t believe in any of it and writes the townspeople off as insane. But when he happens to come across such things as witches, demons and even some zombies, he has to decide if they’re real or figments of the people’s fears brought to life.
I enjoyed watching this film, as the dark and eerie atmosphere kept me into it. I’ll admit there are a few places where the pacing feels a bit off as though it doesn’t know what it wants do or what to do next. Some of the special effects (mainly the CG) aren’t terribly convincing as well, but most of them (especially the practical ones) serve their purpose well and will remind some of movies such as Army of Darkness and Pan’s Labyrinth. It would’ve been nice to see what kind of film this would’ve been had these issues not been present, but it’s still worth checking it out regardless.
Forbidden Empire may not be the best film of its kind, but it’s still worth a look, especially if you like dark and creepy-looking movies. Some minor gripes aside with the pacing and special effects, those who enjoy all things supernatural and odd will find out that having a good time watching this is anything but forbidden.