Simon Barrett’s directorial debut, Seance, begins with a ritual, a pool filled with blood, a masked figure that hides in the closet, and the ultimate death of one of the girls in the prestigious Edelvine Academy for Girls. A group of girls attempting to bring forth the spirit of the academy puts them in unexpected situations. This movie is a fun addition to the whodunnit or slasher horror genre that brings in the themes of loss and never fails to keep the audience hanging.
When Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse) enters the Edelvine Academy for Girls, she is confronted by a spirit that lives on the school premises. After getting into a fight with a group of girls, they are put into detention by the headmistress, Mrs. Landry (Marina Stephenson). The group consists of Alice (Inanna Sarkis), Bethany (Madisen Beaty), Lenora (Jade Michael), Rosalind (Djouliet Amara) and Yvonne (Stephanie Sy) and they invite Camille to join them in a late-night ritual. After they summon the spirit, mysterious things start to happen. Lenora goes missing, Camille sees the ghost of the group’s dead friend, bloody marks on their beds, and even the accidental death of their dear friends. Camille and the remaining survivors try to fight the demon that they summoned, but things take an unexpected turn for the worst.
At Seance‘s best, it is stylishly written and directed by Barrett, with lights flickering and beaming in the set design. The cinematography complements the kind of atmosphere that a horror film is meant to capture, filled with blood and mystery. The movie works its way to bring slasher horror elements, but it sometimes lacks the required thrill. While the story and dialogue are executed quite well, there are certain elements of the story that makes the movie feel like it’s dragging during the movie’s second act.
The movie sets the tone of the story quite well, and it’s simple. A former student dies after a ritual, a new student joins a group of girls in a late-night ritual, and the spirit haunts them again. But what goes wrong with Seance is the pacing in the second act, it takes the bulk of its time trying to figure out who must be doing this and what happened to their missing friend. The horror elements tend to build up and then fall short. However, the second act brings murder and mystery, even if there could have been more jumpscares. The gush of blood only happens during the third act of a movie that attempts to be a slasher film.
The twist in the third act is underwhelming and unexpected, almost disappointing. However, there are action sequences and blood gushes that bring back the slasher elements when things get interesting. While the second act is wonky and the pacing is terrible, the third act concludes Camille’s conflict and gets to find out the truth about what happened to the former student that died. That twist is satisfying and her determination to get to the bottom of it was all she cared about, even if she had to deceive people.
As for the performances, Waterhouse brings a dynamic performance, as does the rest of the cast. She provides stern looks and the curiosity to look further into the mysterious figure that chases in her dreams. The sense of doom and mystery is captured on her face, and during the action sequences, Waterhouse gives an excellent performance by showing determination and strength to pull something of that scale off.
Even with these flaws, Seance does its best to keep the audience scared but the lack of horror elements is disappointing, especially during the second act. Barrett’s directorial debut kicks it with such promise but then gets lost in the middle to make sense of the subplots and murders that happen in the movie. The third act combines everything into one piece and finalises the brutality and the consequences of the ritual, and also, the twist that no one saw coming, but disappointing.