Viewers go into scary movies with their senses and nerves already somewhat primed to be jangled. When said fright flick doesn’t deliver on its part of the bargain, the result can be a tremendous letdown, or even worse, a bore. Luckily, Dark Spell offers enough of its sinister promise to be worth watching. There are enough chills and icky moments to balance out the dull bits, such as the several instances when Zhenya is cautiously peering around corners or searching for little Polina.
Podgaevskiy helmed a top-notch production all the way around. The film is smoothly and artfully composed, and the production design is spectacular. Dark Spell rivals most Hollywood productions in terms of its look and feel. However, the script by Natalya Dubovaya, Ivan Kapitonov, and Podgaevskiy doesn’t rise to the level of the physical production. This is one of those titles where characters show up at locations that they would otherwise have no idea existed, much less where pivotal action would be taking place, were it not for the necessity of the plot placing them there. While oftentimes this causes a person’s eyes to roll, the whole film is this ridiculous, so you kind of just go with it.
“…a top-notch production all the way around.”
The acting by the entire cast is great throughout. Enzhaeva makes a good protagonist and comes across as sort of a cross between Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson. She is a wonderfully versatile actress, fragile in one moment and extraordinarily deft the next. Much is demanded of her physically, particularly in the final leg, and she soldiers through beautifully.
Podgaevskiy’s judicious use of some terrific special effects work is admirable; he resists the temptation to pile on the CGI just because his story involves the spirit world. As a result, this relative restraint, the film is all that much ghostlier and creepy. Keeping its approach to the occult on the PG-13-ish side, Dark Spell conjures up an enjoyably eerie hour and a half. While at times ludicrous, the film is a scary movie that makes good on its spooky promise.
"…makes good on its spooky promise."