A supernatural horror film with a twist, Separation is part-divorce drama, part horror and held together by strong performances by its leads. Putting it bluntly, if you’re hoping for a horror with some chills and thrills, this isn’t going to deliver on that. However, if you’re after a horror that makes you care about the characters involved, then Separation is well worth checking out.
Directed by William Brent Bell, from a screenplay by Nick Amadeus and Josh Braun. Separation stars Rupert Friend as Jeff. A comic book artist who made it big years before with some unique characters called the ‘Grisly Kin’ and has been struggling to follow-up ever since.
This has driven a wedge between him and his wife, Maggie (Mamie Gummer) resulting in them constantly arguing. Much to the dismay of their eight-year-old daughter, Jenny (Violet McGraw) who spends most her time with her puppets of the Grisly Kin. Her friends, as she likes to call them.
Eventually, the couple’s issues become irresolvable and they file for divorce but Maggie wants full custody of their daughter. Jeff is heartbroken but can’t compete with Maggie’s money so looks to lose Jenny completely. That is until Maggie is killed in a hit & run.
Dealing with the tragedy, Jeff and Jenny attempt to move forward but the latter begins to regress to her younger self. Not only that, she claims to be visited by a monster at night and the puppets are coming to life. Of course, Jeff and those around him, just think its her way of coping with the loss of her mother. That is until he starts to experience supernatural events which has him questioning his sanity and if he is up to the task of caring for his young daughter after all.
There’s a lot about Separation that will feel all too familiar to those who have seen their fair share of supernatural horror over the years. There is no denying that the lack of originality in regards to the spooky business is a serious problem for this movie. That, and how little actually manages to create a chill. This is not a scary movie unfortunately, even if some of the visuals are well done.
The problem lies with the over-use of supernatural elements and how the characters react. The former has the spooks occurring at such a frequency, it loses all impact come the end. Whereas the latter has characters see something obviously supernatural, yet then describe it to someone else as a ‘feeling’. It’s quite maddening at times.
These are serious flaws but Separation makes up for some of these issues by delivering a solidly-told story with some mystery. It’s not perfect, it has some holes and a few of the beats, you can see coming a mile away, but it’s still enjoyable enough.
What really makes Separation stand out from the horror pack though, is its characters. Mainly, Jeff and Jenny. Initially quite basic, a struggling artist and introverted child is hardly unique, however it’s their relationship that will win many over. They are a convincing father/daughter pairing and often, the dramatic moments, are the best parts of Separation. Which is an odd thing to say about a horror movie.
…and thus, there is the big problem with Separation. It’s supposed to be a horror movie but when the best part of it is the family drama, things have gone a bit wrong. Is it a classic? Absolutely not, but neither is it a terrible movie either. This one sits squarely in the middle.
The Final Score - 6/10