Canadian filmmaker Patrick White takes on Russian horror classic, distributes Queen of Spades – TheYYSCENE
Shortly after Patrick White wrapped up the final mix for his film Queen of Spades in February last year, the filmmaker hit a wall.
“Suddenly the world has changed,” White says of the rapid onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in North America, which quickly closed theaters across the country. “Then we said, ‘Okay, we’re going to hit the festival circuit,’ then all the festivals started to be canceled.”
As the opportunities to exhibit films dried up over the following months of 2020, White admits that he quickly began to see a benefit to the pandemic that he hoped Queen of Spades could exploit. After all, White says, “a lot more people (at home) are watching content, which ends up being potentially a benefit.”
Indeed, there is no doubt that the foreclosure measures have led to an increase in online streaming and, for Queen of Spades, it becomes even more promising. According to film experts, the horror genre has experienced a boom year in 2020, with more and more people looking for cinematic scares on streaming services to deal with COVID-19. That’s good news for White’s remake of an award-winning Russian horror hit.
“The other beautiful thing about a horror audience is that the star of a horror movie is usually the concept,” adds White, who acknowledged that the first queens of spades would hold promise with its premise, not a celebrity star.
Available on streaming platforms since June 15, Queen of Spades follows four teenagers as they face the gruesome consequences of freeing a disturbing entity known as the Queen of Spades after performing an ancient ritual like a Lark. Much like classic cult hits Candyman or Clive Barker’s Hellraiser franchise, Queen of Spades taps into relentless human curiosity to mingle on the other side.
“If you slow down enough and do (a ritual like) Queen of Spades and pay attention and listen in a dark room, you’re going to hear stuff and it’ll play with your head,” White says, admitting the ritual horror creates a persuasive horror content. “As much as we are rational beings, I think everyone has encountered events that we cannot explain or that we cannot rationalize.”
Originally from 19e Century of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, the folklore behind the Queen of Spades has been the basis of everything from operas and radio shows to several films, including the popular 2015 version of Svyatoslav Podgaevskiy which became the inspiration behind the adaptation of White.
“Whether you’re talking about The Exorcist or The Shining or all the classic horror movies, you’re talking about the situation or the horror,” White said of his directorial debut in famous Russian folklore. “As a filmmaker, it’s one thing to make a great movie – which is a huge battle – but the other is, is anyone going to see it and is it going to come out there ? ”
Best known for his work as a producer, White recently jumped into the director’s chair with his short thriller The Garage (which premiered at CUFF in 2014). Shortly thereafter, distribution company levelFILM came to him and his producers with the rights to Queen of Spades from Podgaevskiy: The Dark Rite. Even with his limited experience as a director, White quickly jumped at the chance to dive into the horror franchise.
“The horror genre is like punk music,” White explains of self-confidence as a new director. “Maybe you don’t know exactly how to play your instruments, but it’s more about this enthusiasm and enthusiasm (and) people going through an experience and saying, ‘Wow, that was a lot of fun. “”
However, there’s another reason the burgeoning Ottawa director has embraced the horror genre as well.
“It allows you to develop your cinematic power,” says White. “It’s a great kind of thing to be able to summon emotion and really capture an audience, take them for a ride and have that suspension of disbelief. I love good comedy, but comedy is extremely difficult (but) a well-done horror movie is a fantastic movie.
Queen of Spades is available on VOD and digital streaming.