April 30, 2021 by: Alex Maidy
Plot: A young girl finds solace in her artist father and the ghost of her dead mother.
Review: When you watch a scary movie, you expect to be scared. When I watched Separation, the latest film from The Boy and Brahms director William Brent Bell, I was never scared. Frankly, I was bored as I slogged through the two-hour story of a haunting that evoked every cliche from every horror movie of the last two decades while squandering what could have been a truly unique tale. Despite some solid performances from the supporting cast, Separation is dreadfully dull and fails to be scary in the least.
Separation opens with an intriguing premise: struggling comic book artist Jeff Vahn (Rupert Friend) is going through a contentious divorce when his wife (Mamie Gummer) dies unexpectedly. Now caught in a custody battle with his father-in-law (Brian Cox), Jeff struggles with the bizarre behavior displayed by his daughter Jenny (Violet McGraw) and the strange and horrible nightmares that begin to bleed into his waking hours. As the film progresses, evidence continues to mount that something supernatural is going on. As things literally go bump in the night, Jeff must face the horrific spectres surrounding his family and his home.
Writers Nick Amadeus and Josh Braun throw everything into the story including creepy drawings, poltergeists moving doors, startling jump scares involving cars and people standing in streets, a wise hippie who knows about the great beyond, and the requisite drug-induced seance to commune with the tormenting spirit. The spirits/ghosts check all of the boxes for what should be scary but instead come off as cheap imitations of the villains in The Conjuring franchise.
The story also doesn’t make much sense. From the outset, the animosity between Jeff and Maggie that leads to their divorce doesn’t seem realistic nor does the fictional logic to explain why the spirits act the way they do. There is also the weird choice to make all of the female characters mentally unstable, vicious, and man-hating which leads to a very misogynistic feel to the entire movie. Throw in a third act twist that will have you rolling your eyes and you are left wondering why you just wasted two hours of your life and that doesn’t include the audacity the filmmakers had to include a post-credit sequence.
The lack of scares in a scary movie is damning enough, but the biggest problem is Rupert Friend. Friend has shown he has talent in his roles on Homeland and even making the best of Hitman sequel Agent 47, but here he sleepwalks through the weak dialogue he has to spout through the film. With Friend appearing on screen the majority of the running time, he never makes his character worth rooting for. This is especially challenging when the brief supporting roles from Mamie Gummer and Brian Cox dominate the screen and further push Friend into the background.
Separation is a lazy movie that is neither scary nor enjoyable to watch. While a few performances and visuals give this movie some credibility, it is nowhere near enough to save this production. This is not just a bad horror movie, it is a bad movie overall. Everyone involved her deserved better than this and so do you. Steer clear.