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As part of our October HorrorFest, we will be posting new reviews of relatively recent horror films during the month of October

Members of an all-girls school are targeted by a malevolent entity in . Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse) is a new student at the prestigious Edelvine Academy for Girls, who received admission following the tragic death of Kerrie (Megan Best), who was supposedly the victim of a prank gone wrong. Camille immediately gets on the bad side of a clique of students, which includes Alice (Inanna Sarkis), Bethany (Madisen Beaty), Helina (Ella-Rae Smith), Yvonne (Stephanie Sy), Rosalind (Djouliet Amara), and Lenora (Jade Michael). Following fighting breaking out between Cammile and Alice, the stern headmaster Mrs. Landry (Marina Stephenson Kerr) assigns all the girls to detention in the library. It is there where Alice designs to hold a seance to contact the spirit of Kerrie. However, soon after doing so, the girls begin to be killed off one by one.

Seance is the feature directorial debut for Simon Barrett, who was previously best-known screenwriter collaborating with director Adam Wingard on the films You're NextThe Guest, and Blair Witch. The film stars Suki Waterhouse (The Bad BatchAssassination Nation) as Camille, a new student at the Edelvine Academy for Girls. While almost immediately antagonized by the clique run by mean girl Alice, Camille does develop a friendship with Helina and she gets acquainted with Trevor (Seamus Patterson), the school's handyman and son of headmaster Mrs. Landry. When the girls begin getting killed one by one, they come to believe it to be the vengeful spirit of the fabled Edelvine Ghost, who was “summoned” in a prank gone wrong that set the story in motion.

Having previously directed a few short films and a segment in 2013's V/H/S/2 (with him returning for the upcoming V/H/S/94), Simon Barrett emerges from the shadow of longtime collaborator Adam Wingard for his feature film debut Seance. Despite previously written strong female protagonists in both You're Next and The Guest, it is very interesting that Barrett opted to make Seance a predominantly female-centric film, with probably the best comparison to the film that I can think of being John Carpenter's 2010 film The Ward.

Without getting too spoiler-heavy about the plot, Seance is a film that can be best described as a combination of a supernatural ghost story with that of a slasher film. In fact, I can argue that the titular seance is ultimately a McGuffin that plays very little into the overall plot of the film. Instead, Simon Barrett seems more focused on killing these girls in increasingly gory ways, with there being some admittedly impressive and bloody kills in the film's climax.

However, despite being a well-crafted film, I never really found myself caring for the characters of the film, most of whom are personifications of mean girl stereotypes. I think in this day and age when there is a bigger call for diversity in filmmaking, I think part of the problem with Seance is that Simon Barrett, a white male if there ever was one, opted to direct this very female-centric story himself instead of at least bring on a female co-writer to help make the characters more developed. In fact, as it stands, the only true character development in the film involves the growing connection between Camille and Helina, which makes sense since they are both technically the main protagonists of this film.

While I will remain a fan of Simon Barrett's work with Adam Wingard, I will ultimately say that Seance is a bit of a stumble.

Seance is now streaming exclusively on Shudder


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Trailer for Seance

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Seance (2021)
Runtime:92 minutes
Director:Simon Barrett
Country:United States
(written by)
Camille, a young woman who arrives at the Fairfield Academy following one of the student's untimely and violent death.
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