Jeff (Rupert Friend) is a comic book artist and is currently unemployed. He is one of those people who hate working at an office. He once got a lucrative offer that could have made him successful, but he declined because, as per the deal, his work would have been produced through VFX. And Jeff is a "pure artist," someone who cannot bear to see his artistic vision destroyed by money-minded companies. Jeff's wife, Maggie (Mamie Gummer), calls him a "misunderstood artist," albeit sarcastically. Maggie is the sole breadwinner of the family. She is exasperated by Jeff and considers him incapable of looking after their daughter, Jenny (Violet McGraw). So what does Maggie do? She asks for a divorce and demands sole custody of her daughter. She plans to move to Seattle, but she is killed in a car accident before she can take Jenny away from Jeff. After Maggie's death, both Jeff and Jenny encounter creepy apparitions. Are these figures fictitious or real?
Anyone who has ever seen a horror film will confidently declare that the ghosts in William Brent Bell's Separation are indeed real. So why does Jeff not shift to another location? As mentioned above, he is broke. To be clear, Jeff gets a job at a friend's office but doesn't immediately receive the amount of cash required to move into another place. On top of that, Jeff, like many horror movie characters, is unsure if the visions he is experiencing are imaginary or veridical. Sure, Maggie's father, Paul (Brian Cox), can provide accommodation for Jeff and Jenny. However, the relationship between the two men is rocky. Paul is more than happy to take Jenny, but Jeff is unwilling to give his daughter to anyone.
Separation is charged with intense drama, which comes to the foreground during the arguments between Jeff and Maggie. The verbal attacks are brutal and effectively delivered by the actors. You are so involved during a phone call that Maggie's accident feels sudden and shocking, even though it's bluntly foreshadowed. When Jeff first visits his friend's office, the camera nicely captures the chaos around him. The initial portions of the film are so good compared to the rest of the story that you wish Bell had made a family drama instead of an inept "Boo!" movie. Separation becomes a bore when it enters the horror movie territory. The problem? It's just not scary.
Take a look at Bell's filmography. You will find movies like Stay Alive, The Devil Inside, Orphan: First Kill, and two The Boy movies. The Boy (2016) and Orphan: First Kill depend on twists, while all the other films are pure rubbish. Bell doesn't have the skill to create suspense and an atmosphere of dread. He simply hits us with creepy images without working on timing or choreography. In Separation, he allows a scary puppet to twist its body, but the moment feels ridiculous (even amusing) rather than chilling. You admire the creature's flexibility and think of doing yoga or something.
Your intuitions tell you that Separation is going to be a lame movie when you see a dream-within-a-dream scene. Bell makes the film sprint during the horror scenes, so we don't get the time to register the mood or the menace of the situation or the creatures. The film is even bad at something as lazy as jump scares and uses one of the characters for claptrap expositions. There is one fine moment where a face in a painting becomes ghoulish, but there is nothing else special about Separation. The movie miserably tries to surprise us by bringing out an obsessive lover, and it cheaply attempts to make us emotional by going over "sweet" father-daughter moments. There are scenes where the frames turn red as Jeff experiences horrifying visions. It's all laughable. If you want something funnier, take the scene where Jeff consoles Jenny and says Paul will be fine. And where is Paul when this conversation happens? Lying on the stairs, twisted. You can recommend Separation to your friends by saying it's (unintentionally) hilarious. But such recommendations are more dangerous than any malevolent spirits from hell.
Final Score- [2.5/10]
Reviewed by - Vikas Yadav
Follow @vikasonorous on Twitter
Publisher at Midgard Times
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