Gogol Nachalo Review: Russian Horror Movie Perfectly Nails the 19th Century Atmosphere

By Ari Helderman
August 25, 2021

One of the Russian movies that I looked forward the most last year was Gogol Nachalo. For those of you that don’t know Gogol: he was a Russian/Ukrainian writer who lived in the 19th century. His works are popular all over the world because of their dark atmosphere. And in Gogol Nachalo you will definitely get a good taste of this atmosphere. It’s the first part of a TV series that was released in the movie theaters. So in a way you can see it as a movie too. There will be 2 more movies: Gogol Viy (estimated release April 5th 2018) and Gogol: Terrible Revenge (released in August 2018).

So if you’re in for a good dark horror tale in Russian, then I highly recommend you start watching Gogol. The movies are good and the actor Alexander Petrov does a good job at portraying Gogol.

Note: if you’re looking for a specific place to watch Gogol Nachalo online, then please check the link at the end of this article. Unfortunately, since it’s a new movie I haven’t found it yet with subtitles (neither Russian nor English). So if your Russian is good enough, you can watch it without problem.

Gogol Nachalo review

The movie is directed by Egor Baranov and is based on the stories of Gogol himself. Mainly on the book Evenings on a farm near Didanka. Now, luckily you don’t have to read the books if you want to understand the movie. That’s because the movie can be watched on itself. The story also isn’t a literal telling of the book. But the book was used more as a source of inspiration. I have both the Russian and English version of the book at home: but it’s very dense language and even some Russians have trouble reading Gogol. So if you want to check the books first: that’s great. But it’s no must by all means.

The movie might be described as a horror movie. And yes, there is some gore at several points in the movie. but it also has a specific type of humor. So is not a movie where you’ll be in suspense for over 90 minutes sitting on the edge of your chair, waiting in agony. It’s a light horror movie that combines some humor into a great atmosphere. I highly recommend you watch it if you like to see a good Russian movie.

Plot overview

The movie starts with a gang of bandits gathering in the woods. They’ve captured a young girl and want to have some fun with her. But it’s at that moment that a dark knight approaches and slaughters them all. We don’t know anything about this knight only that he’s some type of demon.

The screen then switches to the protagonist Gogol. He’s in his town Saint Petersburg and he’s buying all his own books. That’s because at the beginning of his career he wasn’t too popular (who was?). But he decides to beef up his own sales and buys all his own books. Then he proceeds to burn them in his own home.

We see him waking up the next day going to his work as a crime scribe. A murder has happened and he is writing down al the details so they can be used for further investigation. As the crime scene gets investigated we see how Gogol suddenly becomes under the influence of a spirit who is writing everything that happened down on his paper. He doesn’t know what is happening and when he shows what he wrote to the crime investigator they don’t believe it.

Still, they ask the guy who was accused on paper by Gogol and he admits everything. This new skill of Gogol gets the attention of a famous crime investigator, Yakov Guro.

Guro is working on a case in a little farm called Dikanka. Where strange murders are happening. The assassin is described as a dark horseman. So now we know that the knight from the opening scene is the guy we’re looking for.

After Gogol and Yakov Guro arrive in Dikanka, many weird things start happening. And I’ll leave them for now. Since it’s more fun to watch it yourself!

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Here’s a short overview of the cast. Especially Alexander Petrov (Gogol) and Oleg Menshikov (Yakov Guro) do a good job. But the rest of the characters are also great to watch.

Alexander Petrov — Nikolai Vasilyevich Gogol
Oleg Menshikov — investigator Yakov Petrovich Guro
Evgeniy Stychkin — head of the police department, Alexander Khristoforovich Binh
Taisia Vilkova — Elizaveta (Lisa) Danishevskaya
Artyom Tkachenko — Alexey Danishevsky
Julia Franz — daughter of the miller, Oksana
Eugene Sytiy— servant of Gogol, Yakim
Jan Tzapnik — doctor-pathologist Leopold Leopoldovich Bomgart
Sergey Badyuk — blacksmith Vakula
Martha Timofeeva — daughter of the blacksmith Vakula Vasilina
Valery Rybin — Dark Horseman
Ksenia Razina — Ulyana
Svetlana Kireeva — Khristina
Valery Sklyarov — coachman Nicephorus
Artem Suchkov — scribe Tesak
Eugene Kapitonov — Father Bartholomew
Pavel Derevyanko — Alexander Pushkin

This list is taken from Wikipedia.

Is Gogol Nachalo a good movie/series for learning Russian?

The movie is great if you’re into learning Russian. It’s not only a fun movie to watch, but you can also practice you understanding of Russian for almost 2 hours. unfortunately I couldn’t find the movie yet online with subs. So your Russian should be pretty good already to watch it. I recommend at least intermediate level.

The language used can sometimes be a bit old-fashioned. So I’d say that the movie is harder than the average modern Russian movie. That also make the vocabulary you might learn a bit less useful, then watching the movie Posledniy Bogatyr for instance.

However, the movie has a great atmosphere. And especially if you like darker tales – or if you’ve read something from the writer Gogol before – then you’ll absolutely love the move.

I can’t wait for the second part Gogol Viy to come out in 2 months. I already have a trip planned to Russian beginning of May, so I’ll be watching it in a Russian movie theater.

Here is the movie trailer for Gogol Viy.

Watch this video where I tell you in Russian (with English subtitles) 9 reasons why Russian is actually easy to learn.

Gogol Terrible Revenge Trailer

Here is the third installment in the Gogol series. Gogol Terrible revenge.

Where to watch Gogol Nachalo 2017 online?

I checked around the internet where you can already watch Gogol Nachalo 2017 online. It’s only half a year old so there aren’t too many sources available. But here is one that you can use. So if you want to watch Gogol Nachalo on your laptop…

Click here to watch Gogol Nachalo 2017 online!

P.S. enjoyed this Gogol Nachalo review, but is your Russian not good enough to understand the movie? Check out my review of Russianpod 101 to find out how you can learn Russian in just 15 minutes per day!

What should you do next?

Learning Russian does NOT need to be difficult. All you need is a solid plan that helps you improve the following things daily:

  • vocabulary
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That's ALL you need. If you can do this for a couple of weeks, you’ll already be making great progress in your Russian skills.

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If you like the idea of this, but don’t know where to start, go here for more information.

About the Author

My name is Ari Helderman and I help people learn Russian through videos and blog posts where I share my experience.   I have been learning Russian since 2016. I often get mistaken for a native speaker these days, so I've learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn't if you want to speak Russian well.

Ari Helderman