Russian director Svyatoslav Podgayesvskiy takes the urban legend horror trope and gives it a slick but gothic edge in Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite.
Four teens recount a scary story of the Queen of Spades, a local urban legend that still gives people the willies. They tell of boy around their age who summoned her and, after she comes to him and cuts his hair, kills himself after going mad. When the older kids in the group convince Anya (Alina Babak) to give it try, she follows the rules deftly-she lights a candle, draws a door and set of stairs on a mirror with lipstick and calls for the queen 3 times. She is the butt of their joke, but of course, there’s always a catch.
The following day, Matvey (Valentin Sadiki) shows up at Anya’s house unnerved. He believes he is the Queen of Spades next victim and comes to an untimely demise in front of Anya, who is convinced that the Queen of Spades is now after her. Enter Anton (Igor Khripunov), Anya’s estranged father, who is annoyed with all this talk of a ghostly apparition tormenting the kids, and refuses to fall prey to the hysteria. His attitude changes when nightmares plague him and he starts to see things that he can’t explain. It’s up to him to decide whether he can take the leap and believe in a supernatural threat bent on hurting his daughter and her friends.
Queen of Spades has a slick look to it from the opening credits to the final frame. Podgayesvkiy definitely goes heavy on the style of the film, even if it doesn’t explore any new territory. You’ll get a decent apparition that’s pretty creepy, and with moody lighting and artfully framed shots, he gives us modern gothic without an overly elaborate production design.
The story is straightforward and hits the ground running instead of building plot since there’s really no need. There are moments, however, when the pacing slows down midway for a bit of exposition. The film does provide you with steady suspense and some decent jump scares.
The cast will give you what you want if you’re looking for a straight up popcorn horror. We get suitably freaked out teens (watch for Valeriya Dmitrieva who plays Katya and is the spitting image of Amy Pond for all you Whovians out there); Vladimir Seleznyov will keep your attention as the mysterious advisor Smirnov, and Khripunov as the stoic Anton musters up some panicked parental concern just in time for the climax of the film.
Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite is a contemporary Russian horror that is pleasing to the eye and holds up to any North American teen horror franchise.