Bright and Engaging, Séance (2021) Is an Enjoyable Supernaturally Tinged Slasher
First Non-Festival Release: May 13, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Simon Barrett
Writer: Simon Barrett
Runtime: 92 Minutes
Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Ella-Rae Smith, Inanna Sarkis
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
The untimely death of a young woman opens a spot at a prestigious boarding school for Camille (Suki Waterhouse) to attend. She’s greeted by Helina (Ella-Rae Smith), a kind yet shy student who shows her around the school and to her dorm room, the same room once occupied by the dead girl. Not long after she makes her appearance Camille picks a fight with Alice (Inanna Sarkis) and her clique of mean girl friends. Things can’t get worse than this, right? Wrong. After attempting to contact the spirit of their deceased friend during detention, the girls find themselves getting picked off one by one with their school powerless to do anything about it. Suddenly getting into college doesn’t seem that important, right?
Séance is a tense and incredibly engaging supernatural murder mystery with enough wit and horror to satisfy any audience.
Not what one might expect, Séance delivers quality teen terror with a steady, if familiar, mystery. I appreciate a good misdirect and Séance shows a world where nothing and no one is what they seem. The mystery unfurls very naturally, and the audience is given plenty of clues to figure out what is happening. I expect these easter eggs to be satisfying to watch upon a revisit to the film. Perfectly paced, it hits its stride in the third act where everything makes sense.
Suki Waterhouse nails it as Camille. Her energy is electric even though she plays a rather emotionally walled off character. Watching her character open up and come to life is such a cool experience. The relationship between Helina and Camille is particularly wonderful and is one that plays out in a very natural way. Camille clearly has the makings of an excellent final girl and audiences will appreciate her making the “right” choices throughout the film.
I do wish, however, that Camille had more of her backstory explained. There’s plenty of mystery to her, which is great but feels like a cop out to explain her presence and state. Alice and the rest of the mean girls don’t have much depth. They’re all interchangeable and forgettable, which is disappointing. Plenty of red herrings make Séance a wonderfully fun and engaging who-dunnit with a solid paranormal angle.
Brimming with aesthetic inspiration, Séance is a wonderfully full film to enjoy. It plays out and feels like a giallo, which is always exciting to see done, whether it falls into that category or not. There are a few shots that feel particularly giallo inspired, along with some plot points to boot. It’s stylistic and the boarding school is well used in the best way. Some of the best moments come to play in the creepy library which include some vicious pranks and the penultimate reveal.
Séance isn’t without its flaws. A lot of the kills happen off screen which can be very disappointing. The ones that are shown are vicious which is a plus but feels flat considering all the fun Simon Barrett could have had directing more elaborate chase sequences. Some of the ghost effects are cheesy as well but are thankfully used sparingly. I wish that they either forwent them altogether or spent more time and money to make them look more polished. Regardless, Séance is still a good time to be had by all.
Filled with dry humor and cutthroat teen bullying, Séance is worthy of the price of admission. A formidable final girl and some good twists on the conventions make it stand out from other fare. Personally, Séance is a criminally underrated movie and I think that with time audiences will warm up to it. It’s clear that Barrett made a few mistakes in his directorial debut, but you still see the exceptional writing shine through his screenplay. Misdirection, mystery, and murder comprise the tight runtime of Séance and make it one hell of a teen horror flick. Grab your planchette and iPhone and get ready for a good time.
Overall Score? 7/10