Review: 'Seance'

 By: Heather Seebach

I first discovered screenwriter Simon Barrett at the 2010 Philadelphia Film Festival premiere of A Horrible Way to Die, his first collaboration with Adam Wingard. I watched the movie for AJ Bowen but was ultimately impressed with the film and its ability to creep under my skin with a relatively simple tale of relationships gone wrong. The writer-director duo would go on to make a series of acclaimed thrillers, including You're Next and The Guest (both favorites of mine). For the last decade, the names Wingard or Barrett have had horror fans pouncing eagerly on any movie to which they are attached, even the out-of-left-field surprises like Blair Witch or Godzilla vs Kong

Although Barrett has helmed a few shorts, including a segment for V/H/S/2, the writer hopped into the director's seat for his first feature with Seance. The film takes place at Edelvine Academy, a prestigious school for girls, where legend tells of a vengeful spirit that haunts the halls. When a late-night ritual/prank ends with one young girl dying under mysterious circumstances, her friends are left wondering if they accidentally awakened something sinister. The vacancy is quickly filled by a new transfer student, Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse) who - after some growing pains - ultimately joins forces with the other girls to find the truth about the dead girl. Along the way, the body count rises and suspicions begin to fly. 

I am sad to report it but the problem with Seance is that it is just too...bland. It is a boring slasher masquerading as a boring ghost movie, never really committing to either. At its best, it has giallo-inspired moments - one cool shot with a mirror and a blade comes to mind. The all-girls school definitely gave me Suspiria vibes. I would have preferred Barrett just go all-in on the homage; at least then it would be interesting, albeit a bit trite. Instead, the film straddles a snooze-worthy grey area.

Most of the characters are completely unlikeable; the exception being Helina, the kind-hearted RA played by Ella-Rae Smith. The rest of the schoolgirls range from dull to unbearable. One them is inexplicably played by an actress in her 40s. The protagonist, Camille, has a romantic subplot that surprisingly works but mostly she just comes across as a second-rate version of Erin from You're Next. She, along with other bits of this film, feel like recycled leftovers from better features. There are a few moments that work, where that biting sense of Barrett humor shines through, but unfortunately they are just too few and far-between to make this film particularly memorable. 


SEANCE is available on DVD and Blu-ray August 3rd, 2021 from RLJE Films. 

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