As I have always said, going to video store film school will only take you so far. While Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite shamelessly borrows from just about every imaginable horror set up and trope out there, it actually does enough right to make for a decent little introductory film for any beginners out there exploring the horror genre.
Legend has it that any mirror may become a portal into the world of the dead. The oldest ritual known to humankind is the summoning of ‘The Queen of Spades’. Four teenagers decide to call the Queen of Spades as a joke. But they cannot even begin to imagine the horrors they condemned themselves and their loved ones to. The evil entity won’t stop until she gets their souls…
While I will be the first to admit this brings nothing new to the table for anyone who has ever seen any J-Horror (or anything made between 1995 and now) but Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite is a low risk entry into the genre for anyone looking to expand their palettes as it is a sharp looking story that moves reasonably well.
In this his second full feature, director Svyatoslav Podgayevskiy actually shows a deft hand at crafting a tale. He sets mood well and has a good sense of how to design shots making environments feel a lot bigger than they actually are. On what I can only assume was a fairly modest budget, he makes things look very creepy and has a solid eye on how to set the stage for a spooky story. Admittedly the script is a little thin as it liberally cribs from every J-Horror style of film and it doesn’t bring anything all that fresh to the material. Granted its fine for the uneducated, but if you’ve even only ever seen one horror movie you’ll see a lot of these beats coming from a mile away.
To be fair, the ensemble cast really can’t act, but with only a scant number of credits between them all it’s not a surprise. We don’t necessarily get emotionally invested with these characters like we should, but at the very least they keep our attention, and in this case…that’s enough.
At the end of the day Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite shows a little bit of promise stylistically but is an indicator that this director may need to get away from the indie-Russian filmmaking scene and expand his horizons.
Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite opens exclusively at the Kingsway Theatre tomorrow here in Toronto.