Have you seen that movie where a group of teens are systematically murdered by what may or may not be a supernatural presence? Yeah, I have too, and so has Simon Barrett, the writer and director of Seance, premiering on Shudder this week.
Here’s the breakdown: Camille is a new student at the prestigious and remote Edelvine Academy for Girls. She arrives in the wake of another student dying, seemingly having committed suicide, but also, there might be a ghost. After a hostile encounter with the reigning clique, she and the clique are all sentenced to detention together. So, naturally, in a big dark, candlelit room, they decide to hold a seance rather than do whatever assignment they are supposed to be doing. Soon after, girls start dying.
There is not a lot of originality in this set-up. Each girl fits an archetype, from the ruthless queen bee to the shy but caring, quiet one, and all of them are connected in enough ways that the sequence of deaths that follows makes sense. However, if you have watched this kind of movie before, you probably won’t find many surprises when it comes to who or what is responsible for everything, and there’s one third act twist that sounds cool when you explain it but doesn’t really work in practice.
Barrett, for his part, is a good writer with a slew of fun genre movies to his name. As a director is perfectly serviceable, and while he makes one interesting choice to use fisheye lenses in a few key scenes, there isn’t much in the way of personal flair, and there are definitely a few scenes where the performances are meant to be cool but end up being kind of flat.
That last point obviously has something to do with the actors involved, too. While their performances are uneven, lead actor Suki Waterhouse ends up with the more distracting performance. Her character is meant to be cool and aloof but ends up coming off uninterested in most scenes—a shame when her most consistent scene partner Ella-Rae Smith is so natural, innocent, and compelling.
Here’s the thing, though: None of this is really a dealbreaker. Sure, everything about this movie is pretty uneven, but where sometimes you want to read the next great game-changing horror novel, other times you just want to read the dimestore slasher, and that’s what this is. It doesn’t break the mould or reinvent the wheel, but if you want to watch a movie in which several teenagers (being played by actors in their mid to late twenties) get murdered in sequence, then Seance is will probably have something for you.
Seance was released theatrically in May and premieres on Shudder on Wednesday, September 29th.
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