Leptirica ( “She Butterfly”) is the first Yugoslavian horror movie and considered as one of the top Serbian and former Yugoslavian horror films. Leptirica was made in the early seventies, by director Djordje Kadijevic, for the Belgrade television company “Radiotelevizija Beograd”.
One of the reasons why this film is called “the scariest vampire movie ever made” is the fact that when the Leptirica was first shown in Yugoslavia, allegedly, a man in Macedonia died of “fright”! For the director, this situation was very difficult because the authorities then were… well oriented towards communism and we all know how strict they get, and the movie was branded as a “terrorist film”, by the press at the time.
And what about the story-line, you wonder? Well, the movie was set in the 19th-century Serbian village of Zarozje. The village is plagued by the vampire Sava Savanovic who has been killing anyone who takes charge of the flour mill in the woods, near the village. The council of the village becomes desperate because the food is running out, as every miller is being killed.
At the same time, a poor young man named Strahinja is in love with Radojka, a beautiful local landowner’s daughter. After asking Radojka’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage and been refused on the grounds of his poverty, Strahinja decides to leave the village. On the way, he meets members of the village council who persuade him to take the job of the village miller. Fully expecting him to be dead by the morning the council is astonished to find him still alive and decide to locate and destroy the grave of the vampire Sava Savanovic.
After locating the grave they pierce it with a stake, but the soul of the vampire takes a form of a butterfly and escapes from the coffin before they sprinkled it with the Holy water. The village council assumes it is all over and argues that the landowner Zivan is being unreasonable in his refusal to allow his daughter to marry Strahinja and with the blessing of the local priest they kidnap Radojka. After a drunken celebration on the eve of the wedding night everyone except Zivan looks forward to the marriage of the two young lovers the next day – however events take a strange turn…
What is truly fascinating about this movie is the fact that it is actually some kind of a traditional folktale – we have good guys, we have bad guys, and we have something that no guys will ever understand supernatural things and beings. If you take a closer look, you will find that Leptirica is full of Slavic folklore – uptight fathers, a sad love story between a poor young man and rich girl, monsters in the forests… Although this movie is very predictable in some moments, it was truly a masterpiece at the time (and it is even scary for today’s standards) and there are some scenes in the movie that will be stuck in your mind…well, forever. And vampire Sava Savanovic… Well, the novel “After 90 Years” was written only 17 years after Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” so the influence is very obvious.