Making a mythology for a horror film is a complex concept. Filmmakers have to take into account narrative, visual and paratextual elements in order to create an iconic creature that can stand the test of time. The filmmaker may not realize this, but they are inherently forced into this routine when they make a film which involves the creation of an urban legend.
In Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite, director Svyatoslav Podgayevskiy manages to create a monster that looks terrifying, but has few other scaring abilities. The Queen of Spades is a Bloody Mary-type figure who appears after her name is said three times into a mirror, after which she murders anyone who was near the mirror. Podgayevskiy’s film could have easily been a masterpiece: the director has a way with visual effects, which he uses to his advantage to create a certain atmosphere that works well with the acting style of his film. However, Podgayevskiy does not seem to recognize his strengths, causing him to leave his comfort zone and fail repeatedly. For example, the Queen is a terrifying figure who carries the film’s noteworthy second act by doing nothing more than looking scary. When the filmmaker tries to insert jump scares, the dread disappears – Podgayevskiy does not understand how jump scares work, but he keeps swinging nonetheless.
After a weak beginning and a promising build-up, the film changes its genre in the third act for no good reason other than to fill up a half hour. Add occasional elaborate shots that serve no function along with wooden dialogue, and the viewer quickly realizes that Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite is a series of failures surrounding a great short film.
Svyatoslav Podgayevskiy has managed to create a truly scary monster and show encouraging potential as a filmmaker, but Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite is not the work of a genius. Podgayevskiy’s next film may well be brilliant – only time will tell – but his latest should be, at best, watched at home with the fast-forward button at your fingertips.
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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @Shakhayam