The Ice Demon (2021) poster

The Ice Demon (2021)


(Ledyanoy Demon)

Russia. 2021.


Director – Ivan Kapitonov, Screenplay – Natalia Dubovaya, Ivan Kapitonov, Artem Mikhailov & Svyatoslav Podgaevsky, Producer – Dmitry Shepelev, Photography – Evgeny Musin, Music – Nikolay Shachkov, Visual Effects – AmalgamaVFX, Asterman Digital Production Company & Baza FX Studio (Supervisor – Andrey Karakachan), Prosthetic Makeup – Denis Raikov, Production Design – Olga Yurasova. Production Company – Central Partnership/QS Films.


Alina Babak (Ksyusha), Olga Lomonosova (Tanya), Aleksey Rozin (Misha), Gleb Kalyuzhnyy (Semyon), Andrey Marusin (Matvei), Alexandra Cherkasova-Sluzhitel (Vera), Igor Khripunov (Fyodor)


Tanya is called in by authorities who have found the body of her ex-husband Matvei. He disappeared ten years ago and has been found in the woods by campers but is in a coma. During the time he was missing, Tanya has remarried to Misha. Tanya now insists on moving Matvei into their house to look after him. Misha becomes concerned about how obsessed with Matvei that Tanya becomes. Meanwhile, Tanya and Matvei’s now teenage daughter Ksyusha starts trying to contact her father using wooden spelling blocks. From the bed where he lies immobile, Matvei starts to exert a malign influence on everybody around him and causes a series of deaths. Ksyusha comes to believe that her father has returned with a demon inhabiting his body.

Russian science-fiction and dark fantasy seem to be making leaps and bounds in the latter half of the 2010s into the 2020s. I have been watching some fine efforts in the last little while with the likes of The Blackout (2019), The Ninth (2019), Sputnik (2020) and The Superdeep (2020) and that only seems to have scratched the surface. (For a more detailed listing see Russian Cinema).

The Ice Demon was a directorial debut for Ivan Kapitonov who had worked as a producer on a number of other Russian works throughout the 2010s. These include other Russian dark fantasy works such as Dislike (2016), The Mermaid: Lake of the Dead (2016), Paranormal Drive (2016), The Queen of Spades (2016), Baba Yaga: Terror of the Dark Forest (2020), The Widow (2020) and Dark Spell (2021), while he has also written the scripts for several of these.

There is something to The Ice Demon that reminds of the Australian film Patrick (1978) about a psychic coma patient exerting malign influence from a hospital bed. The story has some great dramatic tensions – the husband (Andrey Marusin) who went missing believed dead and returns in a coma; the wife (Olga Lomonosova) now remarried to another husband (Aleksey Rozin) who second-places the new husband to focus on tending the bedridden first husband; the second husband’s increasingly domineering intolerance of the situation and possibly his complicity in the disappearance of the first husband; the now teenage daughter (Alina Babak) who never knew her father and tries to communicate with him using spelling blocks as a makeshift ouija, only to become aware that she has stirred something supernatural. It should also be noted that most of these positions end up changing in their sympathies throughout the course of the film as various revelations are unveiled.

The comatose Matvei (Andrey Marusin) in The Ice Demon (2021)
The comatose Matvei (Andrey Marusin)

Ivan Kapitonov does a great job in creating atmosphere – the whole film has a fantastic mood of taking place at midnight in the dead of winter. Kapitonov creates finely crafted mood and causes us to jump a number of times. There are undeniably chill moments, like when Alma Babak’s wooden blocks form into the words “Misha Killed.” Or of Olga Lomonosova preparing dinner as a pair of phantom hands sneak up from behind and then try to strangle her.

The film is somewhat less interesting in the second half where the mood and eerie build-up flips over into assorted shocks and twist revelations about what really went on. Not to say Ivan Kapitonov does not make these interesting either by any means. I would also have liked to see a little more in the way of explanatory detail afforded to the demonic entity inhabiting Matvei.

Trailer here (English dubbed)

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