Kasia Adamik and Olga Chajdas, the co-creators of Monsters of Krakow on Netflix, both served as directors of the streamer’s gripping Polish dystopian thriller 1983. Here they create a landscape where monsters, specters and demons exist within the framework of contemporary Krakow. It’s up to a group of pathology students and demonic researchers to sort out what’s real from what’s a nightmare. Then again, maybe these two are the same thing.
Monsters of Krakow: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening shot: A woman stands in the humidity of a blue-lit Krakow bar, a strobe light appearing on her left shoulder. She sets up another “U-boat”, dropping her shot glass full of vodka into the depths of a pint of lager.
The essential: While drinking heavily and scanning the crowd for the partner of the night – a man? Women? She hasn’t decided – Alexsandra (Barbara Liberek) spots a guy lying at the bar and banging the sauce hard. “Only med students drink like that,” she offers, and “Lucky” (Stach Linowski) quickly bonds with Alex, who is studying forensics. Alex has a recurring dream – perhaps partly a waking nightmare? – about a faceless specter bedridden her; it results from a traumatic car accident she experienced as a child. She medicates herself with booze, weed, or sex — whatever’s available, really — and wraps herself in chunky trench coats and hoodies for a ride through the city’s relentless rains until to an exam at the university. Lucky, it turns out, is a graduate assistant to the legendary Professor Zawadzki (Andrzej Chyra), and the two single out Alex’s exam results as outstanding for their investigative purposes. What are they investigating? Well, the language of the dead. Ancient demonology. Have you ever heard of the nature demon Aitvaras from Lithuanian folklore? No? Well, Zawadzki did.
In many ways, Alex’s relationship with death seems to define her. She broke her hold as a child and was brought up among the legends and folk magic traditions of her grandmother (Malgorzata Rozniatowska). There is also an aura that seems to follow her everywhere, as well as the question of this recurring nightmare. All of this intrigues Zawadzki, and he tells Lucky to recruit Alex for his student research group. She moves her things to their dorm and meets the others. “Who is visiting you? They ask immediately. “Everyone has someone, right? This group is definitely down with the supernatural. “We experience regression therapy to previous reincarnations,” says Hania (Kaja Chan). “We’ll just analyze your nightmares.”
Alex hesitates with her new research buddies, but she’s also excited. Zawadzki is a legend in his field of study, and the students seem energized by the language of demons and death. They are not the only ones. At an excavation site in the sodden streets of Krakow, teams uncover some sort of relic or statue. The foreman pulls him out of the mud. “It wasn’t here, okay?” Archaeologists are worse than Greenpeace. He tells them he’s done his day and walks away. No, not suspicious at all. And when Alex follows a little boy she’s seen around the neighborhood to his run-down building, she discovers something lurking that’s definitely not of this realm. In Krakow, the monsters are real.
What shows will this remind you of? At the end of last year, Netflix dropped Hell, a dark fantasy series based on a South Korean webtoon, where entities and monsters appear on Earth to incinerate individuals destined for a one-way trip to the abyss. And the long series (15 seasons!) of the CW Supernatural also featured its share of otherworldly demons wreaking havoc in our world.
Our opinion : Monsters of Krakow is overwhelmed with inky greens and blues, and it’s constantly wet. Add flashes of harsh light and the brave group of young researchers at the center of its narrative aren’t the only elements that hint at Joel Schumacher’s 1990 psychological horror exit. Flatliners. Indeed, Barbara Liberek’s Alex appears to be wearing Kiefer Sutherland’s trench coats throughout this intriguing and artfully funny entry into Poland. The first episode of Monsters of Krakow Deftly mixes its heavy atmosphere of rain-soaked streets, green-lit dorms and after-hours drinking establishments with excellent character development in the immediately fascinating Alex – what’s going on with his aura? — and the group of sarcastic, weed- and caffeinated demonic seekers she joins. For now, there are plenty of them, but we’re sure to learn what drives each of them, both in real life and in their nightmares.
This attention to atmosphere doesn’t end with rain buckets and blue camera tints. The first episode of Monsters of Krakow isn’t afraid to show us the money almost immediately with a VFX-heavy climactic sequence that pairs well with conventional directing. There are elements of fantasy here, and horror, and strong writing that amplifies its characters on their mysterious quests, and should provide plenty of firepower over the series’ eight episodes.
Sex and skin: Nothing open at first, but that could change.
Farewell shot: Xander, soaked to the bone, stands before the inert form of a huge… Something she was forced to overcome. Maybe it’s time she listened to Professor Zawadzki’s offers to join his demon research college.
Sleeping Star: There are plenty of intriguing personalities at work when you first meet Alex’s new search party, but Kaja Chan’s know-it-all Hania is a standout.
The most pilot line: “Do not attract evil. To behave. Be careful.” Back at the farm, Alex’s grandmother gives him sage advice over the phone. And of course, we already know that Alex attracts evil. And that she likes not to be careful. Great mother, as she polishes a handmade figurine, probably knows this too.
Our call: SPREAD IT. Monsters of Krakow promises demonic scares and tons of dark, rainy atmosphere as its heroine and her new friends seek out influences from ancient Slavic myth.
Flux Monsters of Krakow on Netflix