Story: According to legend, an ominous entity known as the Queen of Spades can be summoned by performing an ancient ritual.
Review: QUEEN OF SPADES is an entry in the subgenre of horror in which a demonic entity is summoned by chanting its name into a mirror. The Queen is a figure out of Russian folklore (as explained in the film), much like Bloody Mary is for Americans.
This QUEEN OF SPADES is a new American remake of the 2015 Russian film QUEEN OF SPADES: THE DARK RITE (PIKOVAYA DAMA, CHYORNYY OBRYAD). That movie’s writer/director, Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy, receives a “story by” credit here.
The new QUEEN OF SPADES is directed by Patrick White, who co-wrote the screenplay with John Ainsley. It starts reasonably enough, but then starts to feel arbitrary as it proceeds.
Thirteen-year-old Anna (Ava Preston) is a latchkey kid in a huge urban apartment complex. Her mother, Mary (Kaelen Ohm), is loving but working as a janitor to make ends meet while taking classes in hopes of a better life for them both.
Anna hangs out with a trio of seventeen-year-olds who live in the building. Katy (Jamie Bloch) often babysits Anna when Mary isn’t home at night. Sebastian (Eric Osborne) and Matt (Nabil Rajo) are hoping to strike it rich with YouTube videos. (Good luck, boys.)
While the quartet are in a park, they witness a fellow teen pacing the roof of a recreation center, then jumping to his death. Before the youth dies of his injuries, he mentions “the Queen of Spades.”
Over Katy’s sensible objections, Sebastian researches “Queen of Spades” and finds the Russian mythology. He and Matt persuade Anna to do a summoning ritual for the Queen of Spades, who is supposed to grant wishes if she’s at peace, but kill her summoners if she is agitated.
Now, on the one hand, our protagonists did just see someone kill himself over the Queen. On the other hand, we can buy Anna wanting to make a wish and wanting to impress the older boys, and the older boys being fame-seeking dolts.
So, so far, so good. It doesn’t take long for all four to realize that they have indeed summoned the Queen of Spades, who is definitely not at peace. Sebastian tries to figure out how to save himself and his friends by contacting a man named Smirnov (Daniel Kash), who has written a book on the subject.
This is where QUEEN OF SPADES gets a bit wobbly. Kash gives a fine performance as a troubled expert and the young leads are all good. Likewise, Ohm puts conviction into everything she does as protective parent Mary.
However, Smirnov and Mary are both all over the place as characters, going back and forth on what they believe and what they’re willing to do multiple times. Sometimes other characters don’t react in ways that feel appropriate to the situation.
For that matter, exactly what the Queen of Spades is and how she operates seems to morph. There is an epilogue scene that raises far more questions than the film can afford.
Director White does stage a few good jump scares and maintains a solid, moody atmosphere throughout. The results are okay, but mildly annoying by the finale.