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'Separation' Review With Casey

For those of you who did not watch the Academy Awards ceremony on April 25, let me explain that much of the ceremony felt like a desperate, yet restrained, plea to get viewers to return to movie theaters as soon as it's possible and safe. 

Multiple presenters at the Oscars took time to speak directly to viewers at home about the importance of theater attendance and the public's financial support of the film industry. So I went to the movie theater by myself recently to watch the new film Separation which premiered to the public on April 30. And I'm not thrilled with supporting the film industry when the quality of films in theaters right now is so horrible.


Separation is a horror mystery film about a father (Ruper Friend, Hitman: Agent 47, 2015) and a young daughter (an annoying girl whose name I can't bother to remember) who struggle to move on with their lives after the mother unexpectedly dies. But the spirit of the dead mother lives on and haunts the family in ways that are apparently supposed to be spooky and gripping. But nothing is spooky or even close to frightening. So much of the film's content is centered around disagreements of child custody, that the main character's emotional journey simply moves back and forth from frustration to confusion and back to frustration. All of the dialogue is forced and generic, and the twist near the end can be seen from miles away. 


Not surprisingly, Separation suffers from the constant problem of many horror films straining to be scary and inventive. It doesn't seem to know what kind of film it wants to be. It also doesn't seem to know what ghost or horror motifs it prefers using. 


From a slender, computer-generated, contortionist clown (complete with creaking bones); to a wash of red coloring over an entire setting; to slowly moving tree branches; to a floating, old-fashioned, life-size puppet; all these ominous images are presumably coming from the same supernatural force. But since the screenplay doesn't explain the psychological connections between anything, and all the actors are shells void of real emotion, Separation ends up as a mess with no focus, no discernable theme, and nothing new.


These issues can also be found in plenty of other recent horror films like The Turning (2020), Underwater (2020), and Brahms: The Boy II (2020). If Hollywood wants to get people back into movie theaters, then producers, screenwriters, directors, and actors better work hard to make it worth our time.  


Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.