Seance 2021

‘Seance’ Review: A Sleek and Effective Slasher

Simon Barrett’s directorial debut, Seance, presents itself as a traditional ghost story, in which the Edelvine Ghost allegedly murdered a student after her group of friends summoned it. Yet, you can already sense that there’s a bigger story to the murder when Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse) arrives at Edelvine School and takes the murdered girl’s place. Camille does not make new friends at the school; the so-called “popular girls” despise her and keep finding new ways to prank and humiliate her. When they all get into detention after starting a fight, they decide to summon the ghost of Kerrie (Megan Best), the murdered girl, through a séance. Afterwards, more students end up dead in more vicious ways than one—but by whom? The ghost? Or a serial killer targeting specific people? Whilst the film doesn’t do anything groundbreaking for the slasher genre, Seance is still amazingly effective, thanks to its lead performances and master subversion of tired horror tropes.

Whenever there’s a strange noise involved in horror movies, instead of, I don’t know, running away from it or ignoring it, the characters always (and, I mean, always) go to its source to find out what it is, which never ends up serving them. They either end up dead or narrowly escaping their fate. It’s a tired trope that’s found in every horror movie that doesn’t want to do anything different and stick with a tedious jumpscare-heavy formula. What makes Seance smarter than most mainstream horror movies is that it’s unafraid of subverting familiar tropes to produce amazing catharsis. There’s a noise—we know that the character being filmed is in danger, but still goes to see what it is. We also know that any character that goes to observe a noise will end in a terrible fate, but we don’t know when the killer will hit, which makes every murder in Seance feel fresh and amazingly cathartic. It’s that sleek and surprising, Barrett waits until a literal pin drops for the killer to make their move and always manages to throw us off guard, leading the audience to produce many audible gasps, setting the stage for an insanely memorable climax in the process.

Every kill builds upon its last one, progressively becoming more gruesome and unexpected as the film rolls along, even if the structure is contrived in “traditional horror.” The Edelvine ghost is just a diversion that the film is indeed a slasher film and the killer(s) are extremely easy to predict if you pay close attention to the students Camille interacts with. As the film’s lead star, Suki Waterhouse retains a magnetic presence throughout, especially during its climax, where every hint established by Barrett in its first and second act start to click. Waterhouse is a highly underrated (and skilful) actress. She was one of the few good parts of Sam Levinson’s dreary Assassination Nation and continues her streak of elevating a rather clichéd script amazingly well. Barrett utilizes Waterhouse’s action-star capabilities during the film’s incredibly gruesome final act, where any object can be used to brutally incapacitate and/or murder the film’s killers.

How Barrett uses violence sparingly is also particularly interesting—he progressively builds it up as more vicious (and important) for the climax. Since everything is supposed to “click”, during the film’s Giallo-like reveal, then it’s also supposed to deliver in its Grindhouse-like/midnight madness schlock qualities. Heads fall off, necks get slit like butter through LED lamps, while also throwing some 1 v.1 combat for good measure.

Seance movie 2021

It’s all spectacularly cathartic, never sacrificing the one thing that makes schlock horror so amazing: it needs to constantly surprise the audience and make them audibly gasp in the theatre (or, in this case, their homes) and want more out of the film. In that regard, Seance absolutely over-delivers. It’s also the only thing I could ever focus on–how Barrett will murder his next victim in an opera of terror that never ceases to build up its emotional crescendo for it to brilliantly crash (!) in its final act.

While the film’s story doesn’t bring anything new to the table, the way Seance masterfully subverts classic and clichéd horror tropes makes it one of the finest slasher films you’ll see in a long time. Suki Waterhouse’s lead performance also elevates the film’s familiar material and provides a great dose of badassery during the most memorable sequences. It isn’t a perfect movie, since it’s bathed in horror clichés and can only go so far before the script starts to become terribly predictable (the “popular girls” embody the textbook definition of “underdeveloped high school bullies”), but whenever Seance decides to subvert its clichés by utilising them to craft amazing catharsis, it quickly picks up steam and never lets up. If you’re a fan of slasher films and have been severely disappointed lately, look no further: Seance should be on your watchlist immediately.

Thank you for reading! If you’d like to support our website, you can follow us on FacebookTwitter and YouTube

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *