Review: ‘Queen of Spades’ shuffles through horror genre deck and plays all the cards

Alina Babak in the film "Queen of Spades."
(Level 33)

Horror films rarely look as handsome as the Russian supernatural thriller “Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite.” From its sickly pale tinting to its use of subtly glowing light sources, director Svyatoslav Podgayevskiy’s movie is always easy on the eyes.

But that’s about the best that can be said for it. A compendium of genre clichés — or, more charitably, “homages” — “Queen of Spades” offers little that fright fans haven’t seen before.

The film follows what happens when one family’s children playfully summon a mirror-dwelling demon by reciting its name three times. Soon their apartment is being rocked by strange noises and shadows; and eventually, their possessed youngest daughter has become a snarling, foul-mouthed hellion.

It takes about an hour for “Queen of Spades” to move beyond quietly spooky to shocking. Even then, it suffers from how many ideas and images Podgayevskiy swipes from other, better movies. Connoisseurs and casual cinephiles alike should be able to track the similarities to “Candyman,” ‘The Exorcist,” “Poltergeist,” “The Shining,” “Oculus,” “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and the list goes on.


“Queen of Spades” is more dull than dire, but during the long stretches where not much is happening, there’s plenty of time to get irritated by how indistinguishable this picture is from its American counterparts. Here’s a movie made halfway around the world that could just as easily have been shot in Glendale.


“Queen of Spades: The Dark Rite”

In Russian with English subtitles


No rating

Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood