A small Russian town in the early 1900′s is the backdrop for this deeply disturbing film about a group of communist revolutionaries called the cheka-men who spend their days rounding up their political rivals for execution. The majority of the film takes place inside the basement of a charnel house. We are witnesses to execution after execution as people are killed with rapid expediency and professionalism. Men, women and children are forced to strip, stand against a wall, and then are shot. When the dead are removed, five more are brought in and the atrocity is committed again.
There is not a moments reprieve from the brutality as director Rogozhkin plants the camera and the story inside that basement. I found his examination of the assassin’s mindset most interesting. Early on, the cheka-men seem indifferent to their jobs, but as the film winds down, we see that all the killing has slowly begun to erode their very souls. Igor Sergeyev is amazing as the ambitious chekist who finds himself caught up in a machine of death that he helped to create and slowly losing his mind. The film is like passing a car accident on a highway, it’s horrible and you might not like what you see but you can’t take your eyes off of it. A disturbing film that is hard to forget.