Naprata Movie Review
Written by Miloš Jovanović
Written & directed by Mladen Milosavljevic
2013, 65 minutes, Not Rated
Marko Backovic as Backo
Ivana Bogdanovic as Ivana
Sasa Tomic as Sale
Milance Markovic as himself
Zlatimir Pantic as himself
Branko Radakovic as the Professor
A Belgrade-based TV crew consisting of two guys (indie directors Marko Backovic and Sasa Tomic) and one girl (producer Ivana Bogdanovic) heads off to a small town in the backwoods to investigate a local Youtube phenomenon – namely, a clip of a man beating his mom up because she didn't provide him decent enough of a meal. Their initial plan is to interview the guy (named Kaleja) and eventually expand it into a full feature on the issue of domestic violence in rural Serbia. However, they get sidetracked by the local anthropologist (Branko Radakovic, another indie director), who refuses to talk much about their chosen subject and instead offers stories of regional urban legends and folklore. The crew seems most interested in the story of a water demon called "naprata", and the professor directs them to Milance Markovic (played by himself), resident expert on witchcraft and such things, who they find enjoying a drink with another fellow paranormal authority, Zlatimir Pantic (playing himself as well). Markovic and Pantic confirm the existence of that creature, and offer them the chance to summon it. As you might imagine, what happens next does not go exactly as planned (does it ever , though)...
The burgeoning indie horror scene in Serbia keeps expanding into new territory. After numerous independent shorts, and some full features (Milan Todorovic & Milan Konjevic's Zone of the Dead including), we now also have Naprata, the first Serbian "found footage" horror film. Drawing on the rich folk tradition of his homeland (remember, "vampire" is a word of Serbian origin), the director Mladen Milosavljevic presents us a familiar tale of summoning going awry, wrapped into a Blair Witch-esque package. And it is a fine little film, with a certain exception – it is fine when it hits its subject, but the problem is, out of 65 minutes running time – only 30 are worth watching.
Milosavljevic , helming his first feature (if we can call it like that), makes the usual indie horror mistake - the one of padding. Essentially, half of Naprata is a complete throwaway. Firstly, we have a wholly unnecessary (if somewhat comical) bit where Backovic rants about his car trouble. Then, the whole plot hook with Kaleja (an actual living character, and the domestic abuse clip they refer to is, actually, very much real and still alive on Youtube) is a red herring - they interview the guy for 10 minutes, and none of the information you receive leads anywhere...unless you're in the know about his "case" and are interested in his motives (you shouldn't be, just so you know). Even the next segment is somewhat pointless, as the audience is served another dozen or so minutes of vampire folklore which, again, has no connection with the rest of the plot. So if you're counting, by now you had one filler dialogue scene and two false plot hooks - Milosavljevic should really have kept this one short(er).
But once the talk about Naprata itself gets going, the film kicks into high gear. Milance Markovic and Zlatimir Pantic, both actual experts who have written books on the subject of Serbian backwoods monsters and ghouls, offer a highly authentic performance and manage to insert few subtle scares during the interview sequence – they talk about ghosts'n'goblins as leisurely as if they were discussing last night's football results. The summoning part itself is an absolute highlight – a terrifically creepy couple of minutes, and we get to see the creature as well, creation of the local makeup/fx wiz Miroslav Lakobrija. Lakobrija, who is otherwise known for his work on higher profile films (Zone of the Dead, A Serbian Film, The Enemy, and more), gets his due props for not only the creepy makeup, but the fact he still finds time to participate in minuscule indie productions like this one – his presence is just another testament to the fact that the Serbian horror community is rather tight-knit, no matter the size of the movie.
Naprata, like many other found footage films, turns out a mixed bag, but you get the feeling that there could be more to come from Milosavljevic and his crew. After all, they nailed the horror part right – it's the talky parts that bring this one down for a few notches. Still, I'm willing to forgive them for this one, as the guys (and one girl) have their hearts in the right place, and the idea of mixing found footage subgenre and Serbian horror folklore was always going to be an interesting one. Another review on the net asserts the fact that this "...could be what Within the Woods was for The Evil Dead" - let's hope things turn out that way.
Video, Audio and Special Features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a screener.