Seance is a movie set at the fictitious Edelvine Girls Academy, where a group of young women follow a ritual said to call the spirit of a student that committed suicide at the school. This Edelvine ghost is not just any haunting, though, but is an entity rumored to kill those who summon it. What starts as a late-night prank soon turns deadly as one of the girls falls to her death from her dorm window shortly after the ritual is completed.
This tragic event leaves an opening at the school which is soon filled by Camille Meadows (played by Suki Waterhouse.) Camille finds herself staying in the same dorm room as the girl who recently died, and quickly realizes that something sinister is happening at the academy. As she begins to investigate the goings on at Edelvine, we soon discover that Camille is not without secrets of her own.
There are a number of things to like about Seance. Most particularly, it’s refreshing to see a modern horror film that takes its influences from the European movies of the 1970s and not just the American slashers from the 1980s on. For all its supernatural elements Seance is essentially a modern giallo, a genre of horror/murder mysteries popular in Italian cinema in the 1970s through mid-1980s. It has all the plot twists of a classic giallo, keeping you constantly guessing what characters true motives are and wondering what is real and what is being staged. Seance does this in a way that’s fun and engaging, and keeps the audience guessing right up to the end. The film itself is well constructed, with solid production values and some entertaining casting.
The film is not without its flaws. When all is revealed at the end some of the plot twists, while clever, turn out to be implausible. There are too many pieces that fall into place too perfectly in order for things to play out in the way that they do. There are also a couple moments of over-the-top gore that, while not without their entertainment value, are tonally out of place with the rest of the movie and therefore manage to detract from, rather than enhance, the whole. There is also some weakness in character development, with characters going from being fierce enemies to getting along amicably with very little transition, as well as characters who seem like they will have lead roles to play that ultimately end up being sidelined, and a romance that blooms seemingly out of nowhere yet by the movie’s end we’re expected to believe it will stand the test of time.
All in all though, the positives in this film outweigh its shortcomings. I thought the haunting sequences were genuinely creepy, I thought the script was clever and enjoyed the twists and turns, I thought the film had good suspenseful action sequences, and I really enjoyed some of the performances, especially that of the lead character. I also liked that this film was able to take inspiration from classic European giallo without discarding all of its supernatural elements, as giallo films are known to do. While there are twists at the ending, this is not another Scooby Doo movie where everything that happens is explained away by a mastermind wearing a mask muttering about how they “would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn’t been for those darned kids!”
3.5 out of 5 stars
Camille Meadows is the new girl at the prestigious Edelvine Academy for Girls. Soon after her arrival, six girls invite her to join them in a late-night ritual, calling forth the spirit of a dead former student who reportedly haunts their halls. But before morning, one of the girls is dead, leaving the others wondering what they may have awakened.
Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Madisen Beaty, Ella-Rae Smith, Inanna Sarkis, Seamus Patterson and Marina Stephenson-Kerr
Directed and Written By: Simon Barrett
"Seance" is an entertaining ride of twists and turns
All in all though, the positives in this film outweigh its shortcomings. I thought the haunting sequences were genuinely creepy, I thought the script was clever and enjoyed the twists and turns, I thought the film had good suspenseful action sequences, and I really enjoyed some of the performances, especially that of the lead character. I also liked that this film was able to take inspiration from classic European giallo without discarding all of its supernatural elements, as giallo films are known to do.