Aside from a recent return to that thing they call a movie theater after more than a year, I have really been slacking when it comes to my movie-viewing hobby. For months, films have just been stacking up all around me because, lets face it, even when I’m not watching films, I am still buying them. With no real set direction to head in, I figured what better way to re-start my film journey than with another [hopefully] good old Shudder Exclusive. This time, it’s Simon Barrett’s Seance that I will be putting under the microscope.
A tragic accident leaves an empty spot in the Edelvine Academy for Girls roster. Camille Meadows is the lucky new student who gets to fill that void, but shortly after arriving and having a few run-ins with the resident bullies, Camille must face much more than just the threat of bad grades. Is there a ghost haunting the halls of Edelvine or are the girls’ pranks finally going too far?
When I’m not writing reviews for RepulsiveReviews.com, I stay busy in the horror community by maintaining my YouTube channel. If I’m not showing off my considerably sized hauls each week, I enjoy watching other YouTubers do the same. A recent flick I have seen a number of my favorites showing off is none other than Seance.
Written and directed by Simon Barrett, Seance has a lot going for it. It features a talented female-centric cast, great overall production quality, and a really strong start to what seems like a pretty entertaining ghost story-meets-slasher. While this is all very true, I can’t help but get hung up on some of the more not-so-pleasant aspects of the film.
All of the performers who makes up the main group of friends whom we meet throughout the film do a great job… to a point. Everyone from Suki Waterhouse (Assassination Nation), Madisen Beaty (Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood), and Inanna Sarkis (After franchise) to Seamus Patterson (“Channel Zero”) and Marina Stephenson-Kerr (Cult of Chucky) portray their characters wonderfully, but I can’t help but feel a lack of authenticity from the majority of the lot.
As I’ve mentioned, Seance mixes elements of a supernatural thriller and a straight-up slasher flick. With each passing death and each subsequent victim, the friends don’t seem to be too effected by the surmounting slaughter; No real tears flow, no real devastation is shown. I’d imagine this was intentionally done by Barrett and the characters he has created, but it doesn’t do much in the way of making me care even in the slightest for any of these people.
Those elements of different sub-genres that I’ve mentioned, both of which I generally love, seem to clash in many instances throughout the film’s 93 minutes. Many a sequence lead to confusion akin to the 2010 version of A Nightmare on Elm Street — was that real or was it a dream? Is there really a ghost or are these girls just really good at pulling their pranks? Again, undoubtedly intentional, but not necessarily the most effective way to get the point of Seance across.
I like my slashers bloody and I like my ghost stories spine-chilling and none of that really occurs for a good bit of the film. It isn’t until the final act that we start to witness some real brutality in each death scene, and by then, it is [almost] too little, too late. I say “almost” here because, if I’m being honest, some of this bloodshed actually did reel me back in to a film that had almost certainly completely lost me.
A nice neck slice here and a few surprise gory deaths there aided in bringing my final rating of the film up a few points, but the confusion and back-and-forth on what this film really was trying to be did halt that rise a great deal.
I am a fan of Simon Barrett’s writing as he is credited with working with some of my favorite directors of the last decade or more on some of my favorite films — Adam Wingard’s The Guest and You’re Next, segments in V/H/S and The ABCSs of Death, etc. Sadly his directorial skills shown throughout his debut film just don’t live up to those screenplays.
Seance at Home
As mentioned, you can watch Seance now on the Shudder streaming service. If you, however, prefer to collect or simply watch films on physical media like myself, you can grab your very own copy today. Seance is available now on DVD and Blu-ray from RLJE Films.
The Blu-ray home release presents the film in a 1080p high-definition Widescreen 2.39:1 format and includes a DTS-HD master audio 5.1 track and optional English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles.
In addition to the film itself, the home release features a number of special features. An audio commentary with Simon Barrett himself is included along with behind the scenes footage, outtakes, deleted scenes, and more.
I was excited to watch a new horror flick for the first time in a while and while there were some strengths to this directorial debut from Simon Barrett, the weaknesses managed to hold it back quite a bit. Because of this, I need to limit my rating to one that is right down the middle; Seance gets a score of 2.5 flickering lights out of 5 from yours truly.