Selah and the Spades
Despite an acclaimed debut at Sundance last year, Selah and the Spades was always set to bypass theaters to premiere on Amazon Prime. That’s a lousy way to treat a high school drama that finally fits into a decent triple bill with 1976’s Massacre at Central High and 1988’s The Chocolate War. This hard-boiled tale of feuding factions at the Haldwell School for Boarding and Day Students features an impressive young cast, but the real stars here are first-time writer/director Tayarisha Poe and cinematographer Jomo Fray. Their tale of drug-dealing Selah and her new protégé plays more like a flipbook of bizarre imagery. Poe’s script also avoids becoming self-aware about its overblown high school setting. It’s fascinating to watch a seemingly Satanic ritual unveil into a simple senior prank. That adds to the tragedy as the film deftly keeps reminding us of the low stakes involved in Selah’s obsession with her legacy. Poe even daringly adds to the mood of elevated horror by setting Selah in a world of asexual adolescents. As a result, any single frame is far more chilling than any of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.