Contains mild spoilers.
With the newly released Scream movie hitting our cinema screens, the teen horror/slasher genre is about to get another shake up, so what great timing for Shudder and writer/director Simon Barrett to release Seance on Blu-ray. The all-girls private school set horror looks to combine the perfect recipe of late night ouija board-style rituals, slasher horror, dark humour, a clever twist, and an attractive cast to create some kind of delicious slasher stew. Very promising indeed, and although Seance does hit the mark on some occasions, overall it’s not quite up there with the best of the genre.
When Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse) joins the prestigious Edelvine Academy for Girls she immediately makes her mark by getting into a fight with school bad girl Alice (Inanna Sarkis) and her gang. It is pretty clear that the plucky Camille won’t be taking crap from anyone.
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Not long after this, while in detention, the girls invite Camille to perform a late-night ritual with them. A seance, to try and bring forth the ghost of a former student, and friend of the girls, that died a tragic death. But clever Camille seems pretty world-wise and believes this to be nothing more than a prank. And while this appears to be the case a few times in the movie, there is also someone or something haunting and stalking the halls of Edelvine Academy, and it’s not long before strange events are happening and dead bodies start piling up.
A familiar, perhaps over-familiar premise, as many films from the 70s and 80s slasher genre (1974’s classic Black Christmas, 1982’s The House on Sorority Row) right through to the 90’s and early 00’s (1996’s Scream, 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer, 2000’s Cherry Falls) slasher revival have tackled the same subjects and themes. Early on in Seance it does feel like we’ve seen all this before, and you begin to fear the worst as familiar characters and situations pop up. As much as you want to enjoy a good slasher, Seance feels a bit generic.
But something that Seance has on its side is a solid writer/director in Simon Barrett. Working on films like 2011’s brilliant home invasion horror You’re Next, and 2014’s equally brilliant brutal 80s throwback horror/thriller The Guest among many others, as a writer and producer (with partner-in-crime Adam Wingard, who this time helps produce) and often in the director’s chair, has helped Barrett to craft a fun and stylish slasher that is made to sit back and enjoy.
Despite its overly generic feel at times, Seance does indeed have moments to enjoy for film fans in general that like a decent enough plot, strong and enjoyable performances, some gore and a bit of humour. Throw in a twist and everyone’s happy. Saying that, the twist itself isn’t anything special and if you’ve seen the majority of popular slashers over the years you may well guess it early on in the film, which is disappointing when it is finally revealed. It may be a surprise for more casual horror fans, or movie-goers that don’t watch much horror in general, but for hardened horror fans the twist reveal might provoke more eyerolls than it does shocked looks at the screen.
For all its faults, in this era of horror with the likes of Robert Eggers and Ari Aster giving us modern classics The VVitch (2015) and Midsommar (2019) – two outstanding films with deep, dark subject matter and disturbing moments that stay with you long after the credits roll – it’s nice to put on a film that offers an hour and a half of creepy fun, and a few moments of over-the-top gore to satisfy the horror fan in us all that likes to sit back after a hard day and just simply enjoy what’s put in front of us, instead of thinking too hard or getting disturbed and questioning the moral values of the film maker in question! Seance offers an entertaining escape from the dark and depressing world of some modern film makers and instead offers up mystery, suspense and a bloody good time.
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Extras on the Blu-ray disc for Seance include a director’s commentary, a behind the scenes feature with interviews with the cast, deleted scenes, outtakes, and a very short but fun video of Simon Barrett’s vision for a gory highlight from the film.
Overall, while being a tad generic and over familiar for horror fans, Seance is still an entertaining watch with just enough going on to keep audiences engaged and on their toes throughout, with the right amount of gore and suspense to keep film fans happy, if not amazed.
Seance is out now on Blu-ray from Acorn Media.