Russia is a huge country in terms of territory, but whose film production is barely reaching our theaters. In this year 2021, Netflix brought great films from the land of Tolstoy, such as “Ice City” and “Major Grom vs. Dr. Plague”. Also in the last decade, distributor Paris Filmes has devoted part of its distribution to bringing in productions from the country of Anna Karenina, and has brought interesting horror titles to Brazil, but dubbed in English – which took half the magic of connecting with the viewer. Among these was the original version of “Queen of Swords,” which premiered here when theaters reopened in 2020 and whose review can be read here. And now, the Canadian version of this Russian horror legend arrives for rental on demand on Virtual Cinema’s partner platforms.
Anna (Ava Preston) is a thirteen-year-old girl whose mother still leaves her in the care of Katy (Jamie Bloch), their slightly older neighbor. While Mary (Kaelen Ohm) works nights, Anna spends time with Katy and her friends Sebastian (Eric Osborne) and Matthew (Nabil Rajo), who have a YouTube channel. When, one afternoon, the four see a young man throw himself from the roof of the school and, in the thread of life he left her, pronounce the name of ‘Queen of Swords’, the young people quickly seek a explanation on the internet. Upon discovering that this is a Russian urban legend about a cursed woman who torments the lives of those who invoke her name in the mirror, the boys have the brilliant idea of putting the curse to the test, forcing Anna to invoke the spirit. However, the prank can end up going too far when the whole thing turns out to be more real than they ever imagined.
By taking Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy’s original idea and making the narrative feel American, it was hoped that the 2021 version of “Queen of Swords” would add something more than just telling the same story as the Russians, but it’s more or less what the viewer will find in this new film arriving in Brazil. Maybe even with less scares and fewer appearances of the evil spirit, which this time becomes more subjective and shows less face in the current version.
Written by John Ainslie, the screenplay does not correct the flaws of the original version, relying much more on the guilt relationship of Mary’s absent mother than on the terror that should plague young teenagers. Thus, between drama and horror, Patrick White’s film is more in the first genre, sometimes with suspicions of suspense which are not really scary, in particular because of the difficulty of the actors to express a real fear.
The new version of ‘Queen of Swords’ is slightly better than the original, but hardly better. As it alternately happens on on-demand rental platforms, it works as an option for horror fans who have already exhausted their streaming options and like to venture into genre cinema produced by non-hegemonic countries, like Canada. Even more so when it comes to a Canadian reading of a Russian legend of urban horror.
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