Cursed Seat (Proigrannoe mesto) (2018)

Cursed Seat (Proigrannoe mesto) first published by EyeforFilm

After telling a (vividly presented) urban myth around a fire, a group of high school seniors discuss whether the story is true or not – they conclude that it is, even though its climax is a direct lift from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) – and whether its apparently supernatural elements can be entirely rationalised. 

In actress Nadezhda Mikhalkova’s directorial debut Cursed Seat (Proigrannoe mesto), this opening sequence will turn out to be programmatic. The film presents another urban myth which, for all its obvious irrationality, will become real in the lives – and, in some cases, deaths – of these teens, forcing them to address the same questions (can it be true? is there a rational explanation?) while racing to discover who or what is killing them one by one. For shortly after bullied loner Roma (Nikita Elenev) tells them the story of a ‘lost’ seat in a cinema – “If you sit in it,” he says, “you’ll die” – the kids find that their illicit trips to the local movie house always end in a grotesque demise for one of them. 

As Katia (Irina Martynenko), already grieving her boyfriend Yura’s death by decapitation, works out the seat’s number, she finds herself caught between the complicated interpersonal machinations of her various friends, her own addled, oneiric perspective, and an ongoing investigation conducted by a pair of middle-aged police officers who cannot quite believe what the younger Russian generation gets up to these days. What ensues is a wild metacinematic ride through teen horror tropes that will keep you guessing to the very end whether this is a case of a genuine curse or just a bog-standard psycho. Along the way, expect thrills that are trashy, fun and knowing, all exposing today’s selfie-and-sex-obsessed youth at their best and worst. Horror fans would be mad to miss it – but just be careful where you sit in the cinema.

© Anton Bitel