Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite (2015) -Svyatoslav Podgayevskly

 

It’s always interesting to see what genre films look like from other countries, and this Friday at select cities across the country, and on VOD on the 19th, we can have a look at Russia’s Queen of Spades.

A riff on the Bloody Mary urban legend that is seemingly as old as mankind, the film plays with the genre tropes, throws in a creepy hospital, and some nods to the Exorcist and consequently makes for an interesting watch.

Young Anya (Alina Babek) at the encouragement of her friends, including Katya (Valeriya Dmitrieva) calls on the Queen of Spades, in the familiar way, with a candle, and invoking her name three times in front of a mirror.

When her friends start to end up dead, her father (Igor Khripunov) is called by Anya’s mother, and his ex-wife, Marina (Evgeniya Loza), to come and speak with their hysterical daughter.

She tells him about about the Queen, viewing her in the mirror, and how they try to communicate with the entity. Amazingly enough, her father seems to almost take it all in stride, and while not necessarily believing her right off the bat he does seem to buy in pretty quick, and consequently the Queen latches on to him as well.

He seeks out the help of Smirnov (Vladimir Seleznyov), who seems to have a connection with the Queen, and knows more than he lets on.

Some of the character mythology around the Queen is a little unclear, while other parts of her history are explored later in the film, but overall it tends to be a well-crafted film, though glaringly different on how a Western filmmaker would approach it.

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Going more for mood as opposed to flat out scares, this one needs to be paid attention to, as shadows move in the background, curtains push outward as if someone is trying to get out from under them, and glimpses of a strange figure are caught in reflective surfaces.

Sure they try for a couple of jump scares, but they are telegraphed before hand, and some of the story seems a bit thin, but it’s entertaining none the less.

The director, who also wrote the film, makes use of his frame and camera, which always seems to be in motion, inching along hallways, pushing in slowly on the film’s subjects, or creeping through the film’s locations, giving the impression of something stalking the characters of the film.

I’m not won over completely by the character design of the Queen, but there are some nicely spooky moments when she is more fluid shadow, which work better than the attack scenes, and close-ups.

I think my biggest issue with the film is it’s name, it just doesn’t work in my humble opinion. Though, with that being said, it is a fairly enjoyable film, with some good performances, and some obvious nods to other classic films.

If that isn’t enough to get you into a seat in the theater, then, wait until the 19th, settle in on your couch, get your popcorn, turn off the lights, cover your mirrors, and enjoy a gentle taste of Russian horror.

Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite opens in theaters today.

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