Monday, May 17, 2021


"As soon as we held the séance, everything really started to improve,” said nobody ever, neither in horror movies or real life. Yet, kids will be kids—bored and hubristic kids. These privileged boarding school girls also brought Noh masks to the spirit-raising party, so bonus points for that. The ghost might not be exactly who they presume, but several of the classmates will still be just as dead in screenwriter-director Simon Barrett’s Séance, which releases in theaters and on-demand this Friday.

At Fairfield Academy, a clique of mean girls performs a “Bloody Mary”-style ritual to raise the school’s resident ghost. They think they are pranking their least-popular member, but when she jumps out her window—under mysterious circumstances—shortly thereafter, it doesn’t seem so funny anymore. Regardless, that opens up a space at the prestigious school for senior transfer Camille, who immediately fights back against their hazing. Stuck in detention with the mean girls (seriously, you won’t remember or care who is who), Camille agrees to participate in a séance to talk to the angry spirit. As you might expect, the experience rather freaks them out. Then, they start to get picked off, one by one.

Horror aficionados might expect something more ambitious from Barrett, who was considered a hip new screenwriter, based on
You’re Next, The Guest, and several installments in the V/H/S franchise, but Séance is rather enjoyable in an unabashed, grungy throwback kind of way. So, yes, the vintage horror formula of killing off a bunch of catty boarding school princesses in an atmospheric old school building still basically works.

Admittedly, characterization is usually pretty formulaic in this kind of film, yet Suki Waterhouse conspicuously underwhelms as Camille, the supposedly bad@ss rebel. There is just no intensity, charisma, or sense of danger to her work, which is a major drawback for the film. Frankly, Barrett would have been better off with less famous Ella-Rae Smith or Stephanie Sy, who at least show some attitude and claws, as two of the mean girls.

Whatever. 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, Séance releases this Friday (5/21) in theaters and via digital and on-demand.