SEANCE (2021) Reviews [more] and overview

 

Seance is a 2021 American horror film set in an all-girls boarding school seemingly haunted by a vengeful spirit.

Written and directed by Simon Barrett (writer of Temple; You’re Next; The Guest; Blair Witch; Dead Birds; Frankenfish; A Horrible Way to Die; et al). Produced by John Schoenfelder, Russell Ackerman, Tomas Deckaj, director Adam Wingard and Alex Mace.

The Dark Castle Entertainment Production-Addictive Pictures movie stars Suki Waterhouse (New Year, New You; Assassination Nation; Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; et al), Inanna Sarkis (Boo 2! A Madea Halloween; A Killer Walks Amongst Us), Madisen Beaty (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood; The Clovehitch Killer; Jamie Marks is Dead) and Ella-Rae Smith.

The synth soundtrack score was provided by German composer Tobias Vethake [as Sicker Man].

Plot:

Edelvine Academy for Girls is a boarding school haunted by a vengeful spirit. Alice (Inanna Sarkis) is a first-class mean girl who stages a seance as a joke that sparks a rash of murders with an apparent supernatural twist.

Meanwhile, a young woman named Camille (Suki Waterhouse) arrives at the school after a student’s sudden and untimely death and must play detective to solve the mystery…

[May contain spoilers] Reviews:

“Whilst Simon Barrett’s film will undoubtedly feel familiar, he employs a number of clever touches and plot devices which draws the viewer in. Great use of darkness along with a good cast and a taut script help raise Seance above your average horror film.” Backseat Mafia

“Most of the deaths are bland, and the victims even blander. Visually, it can be a bit of a mixed bag too. Still, the taut writing, Waterhouse, and bursts of lively violence give this high school-set slasher a passing grade.” Bloody Disgusting

Séance is sluggish, populated with uninteresting characters and a lethargic central performance from Waterhouse that barely registers on camera (she doesn’t look like a rebellious 18-year-old either). The actress seems bored with the material, but so does Barrett, launching a ridiculous last act that replaces a grand wind-up of the unknown with an enormous exposition dump…” Blu-ray.com

“The deaths, when they happen, are more visceral than ethereal– a plunging knife, an ambush garrote– and they’re all preceded by a flicker of recognition. Seance slowly blurs the line between the spooky atmosphere of a ghost story and the more down-to-earth scares of a giallo film […] In short, this is the rare who-or-what-dunnit film in which that’s a genuine question.” Boston Hassle

Seance isn’t perfect, but Simon Barrett’s willingness to remix some of horror’s most tired tropes is enough to eclipse the film’s flaws, while further establishing him as one of the boldest and brightest brains in the genre.” CRP Writes

“Never mind flat characters like a stuffy headmistress with her hair tied tight or some slightly creative kills undercut by bargain CG FX. Séance boasts a photogenic cast, a 90-minute runtime, clear heroes and villains, a mild mystery, and milder chills tailored to teen-centric tastes that prefer safe over spicy. I don’t expect experienced viewers to get much out of Séance.” Culture Crypt

“Through deft edits, whiplash hits and bloody bursts, the supercharged finale is undeniably crowd pleasing […] The most ardent of horror fans will not be disappointed by the ending of Seance. Barrett’s love of murder mysteries and anime shine through during some of the detective novel twists and heightened emotional beats.” Dread Central

” …half of the twist is an unexpected revelation. The issue is that the details surrounding the how and why are so laughably stupid and implausible that it would have been wiser to stay the path of logic. Simon Barrett is clearly hoping that the savagely cool violence throughout the climax masks the flawed ludicrous narrative…” Flickering Myth

“Until a few kills in the last act, the bloodshed is restrained, with the camera often cutting away. The fact its cast features all young actresses will probably draw comparisons to The Craft, but it’s not quite that type of film. Yes, it has a little bit to say about identity and women discovering their power, but nothing to do with witchcraft.” Horror Buzz

“There have been plenty of wooden performances in drive-in and VHS-era dead teenager horror movies that still served their purpose. Séance definitely follows in their footsteps. It isn’t fancy, but it is rather enjoyable in an unfussy, old school kind of way. Recommended for fans in the mood for some red meat…” J.B. Spins

“The ghostly elements rarely materialize as anything more than flickering lights and strange shadows in the background, while the slasher elements are reserved, with most kills relatively bloodless and happening off-screen. Séance does each well enough but is exceptional at neither.” Killer Horror Critic

Seance is fine. The mean girls are mean, the spooky stuff is spooky, Waterhouse’s accent comes and goes but isn’t terribly distracting. Yes, it’s kind of a mess and never amounts to anything super memorable, but it remains watchable and is perfectly serviceable for what it is.” The Last Thing I See

“Some of the film’s sleights of hand are clever enough, but the storytelling is so anemic that it’s hard to applaud them. Barrett generates no dread and no sense of connection to any of the characters. Unlike Guest’s Maika Monroe or You’re Next’s Sharni Vinson, who command the screen and drive the film, Waterhouse delivers a mainly listless performance.” MaddWolf

“Not every twist and turn makes sense or is satisfying in the way Barrett might’ve hoped, especially a final act reveal that nearly derails the whole thing. The tropes Barrett employs feel like they’re coming from someone with a genuine love of genre and combined with a talented cast Seance is worth conjuring up if in need of an entertaining distraction.” Punch Drunk Critics

Seance may play easier for audiences unfamiliar with some of the horror movies it’s referencing, or maybe those viewers who don’t mind watching more of the same kind of stories, but the movie lacks a certain sense of personality or signature, be it from the director or the main star. The characters are in search of a spirit from the great beyond; Seance is in search of a voice to call its own.” RogerEbert.com

“Barrett employs the moodiness of the Italian masterpieces to help deliver scary set-pieces. Due to the stillness, nothing is telegraphed. When a knife slashes or a grabby hand suddenly lurches out, the mood makes the motion more shocking. But it has a side effect. It makes the movie a tad less emotional than it could be, especially given the nature of its relationships.” San Francisco Examiner

“Waterhouse is fine as the lead but doesn’t exude a huge amount of charisma. Despite its shortcomings, Seance offers plenty of amusing, enjoyable scare fare, including a fantastic denouement in the third act. Barrett shows a great deal of promise as a director, and he throws in a few surprises among the more familiar components.” The Scariest Things

“It’s difficult to tell which of Seance’s incongruities are intentional and which are merely intrinsic to the genre Barrett adores […] It’s a shame that Barrett relies on so many gimmicks in Seance’s final act, springing the usual bloodbaths and twists, as he doesn’t need them. The film’s ephemeral aura of longing, and Barrett’s palpable pleasure in atmosphere, are enough.” Slant

Seance takes the kind of twist that I usually would have hated and pulls it off. It also tosses in a few others for good measure to go out with a bloody satisfying bang. It did leave me with one big question, and you’ll probably have it too. But it’s an annoyance, not a deal-breaker.” Voices from the Balcony

Release date:

RLJE Films will release the film theatrically, On-Demand and Digital on May 21st 2021 and Shudder will premiere the film on its platform later in the year. Shudder has also acquired UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand rights.

Press release:

“We’re so excited to finally be working with the amazingly talented writer and director of Seance, Simon Barrett,” said Mark Ward, Chief Acquisitions Officer at RLJE Films. “Following the ever-growing success of his previous work on You’re Next and The Guest, we can’t wait to share Seance with audiences.”

“The Shudder team are big fans of Simon Barrett’s work as a screenwriter, so we leapt at the chance to be the streaming home for his directorial debut,” said Craig Engler, Shudder’s General Manager. “We know our members will be chilled and delighted by what Barrett has crafted with Seance.”

“I’m thrilled that Seance has found a home with RLJE Films and Shudder, who are at the vanguard of releasing unique and original genre films. Both companies clearly respect and understand horror fans, for whom Seance was made,” said Barrett.

Cast and characters:

Suki Waterhouse … Camille
Madisen Beaty … Bethany
Inanna Sarkis … Alice
Ella-Rae Smith … Helina
Jade Michael … Lenora
Stephanie Sy … Yvonne
Djouliet Amara … Rosalind
Megan Best … Kerrie
Seamus Patterson … Trevor Landry
Cliff Sumter … Policeman
Leah Mitchell … Hallway Girl
Olatunbosun Amao … Police Officer

Filming locations:

Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Technical details:

Filming dates:

18th November 2019 onwards

93 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1

Notes:

Not to be confused with Seance, a 2011 Australian film.

Trailer: