Cinepocalypse 2018: The Russian Bride (2018 - dir. Michael S. Ojeda)

review by Patrick Ripoll

Sometimes movies take horror premises and than put more horror premises inside of them, like one of those Japanese Pizza Hut pizzas that has hot dogs inside the crust. In The Russian Bride, Nina (Oksana Orlan) plays a Russian woman in a desperate situation who is forced to become a mail-order bride for rich man Karl Frederick (Corbin Bensen). He seems kind enough but anyone who pays attention to the news knows there's no such thing as a kind rich man, all rich people are craven sadists looking to strip-mine the working class for parts. Her arrival in America (which looks suspiciously like the Eastern Europe she just left) gets more ominous with the appearance of a tongueless hunchback groundskeeper, a forbidden wing of the mansion, undiscussed children's rooms, stories of Karl's dark past and a ghost that may or may not be his former wife that won't leave Nina's daughter Dasha (Kristina Pimenova) alone.

The idea of being a Russian mail-order bride is scary enough. But even if pizzas with hot dogs in the crust are rarely great meals, they can at least be a lot of cheap fun. The Russian Bride is a lot of cheap fun. The way Roger Corman movies would all cut away to the same matte shot of lightning or stock footage of burning beams of wood falling from the ceiling, the phony CGI snowfall and non-stop drone establishing shots will become a running joke with the audience. It helps that Corbin Bensen is having the time of his life, hamming it up like Vincent Price in Corman's Poe films. As the film dials up the crazy so does he, going from soft-spoken patriarch to snarling sociopath who you can't wait to see get his comeuppance.

Writer/Director Michael S. Ojeda has the workmanlike competence of a Corman pupil as well. There's little formal invention here, but he knows how to stage gags, how to set-up and pay-off scares, and the classic Hollywood practice of sprinkling in conspicuous details that inevitably pay-off in one-liners right before villains meet their gruesome ends. The Russian Bride knows exactly what it is, and knows exactly how trashy it can be without undermining the story. Lurking dread quickly mutates into a woman in a blood-spattered wedding dress dual wielding a hammer and screwdriver against a mansion full of Eastern Europeans cast as Americans. There is a Deus Ex-Wife Machina moment towards the end of this film that is one of the most unexpected and delightful moments of the year. The crowd I was with cheered with glee. The Russian Bride is the kind of movie that reminds you why cheap junk food is popular in the first place.

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