I always love to support film directors who are creative enough to do things differently to what everyone else is doing. Filmmaker Simon Barrett is one such director. Barrett quickly established himself as a screenwriter in the horror genre with his ability to take familiar horror tropes and spin them around to something quite original.
I first stumbled upon his work after watching V/H/S at Monster Fest, a number of years ago. I had never really been a fan of the horror anthology style of film prior. To me, it always felt like a lazy way to group short films together and call them a feature, but with V/H/S Barrett showed creativity and somehow the film worked. Soon after, I saw the very brilliant-but-bloody You’re Next and I was hooked.
Now with Seance, Barrett brilliantly melds horror genres together in a way that shouldn’t work but does. Yes, Seanceis part slasher, part teen horror but ends up falling alongside those brilliant commercial teen horrors of the 90s and 2000s like The Faculty, Halloween: H20 and Disturbing Behaviour.
The film follows the events at an elite private school, Fairfield Academy, after one of its students dies after ‘falling’ from a window. While the school’s staff are quick to reassure new student, Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse), that the student’s death was in fact an accident, she soon learns after talking to fellow student Helina (Ella-Rae Smith) that the death actually followed immediately after a cruel prank pulled by the very popular Alice (Inanna Sarkis).
As Camille looks more into how the girl died, she discovers that the school itself appears to be haunted, soon finding herself in her own confusing situation as she draws closer to Helina and is developing feelings for the school’s handyman, Trevor (Seamus Patterson).
Seance feels like a mix between Harry Potter, Ouija and Mean Girls, and what I loved the most about Seance is that Barrett plays with so many horror tropes and ‘inner genres’ within the film that you never really know what to expect next.
Seance is written in such a way that there are even questions over the hero, Camille. She seems too quick to label Alice and her clique the enemies, while little things about her own past just don’t seem to add up with who she says she is.
Barrett’s screenplay does take the audience on a winding path of discovery and to its credit it doesn’t trip itself up at any time. The only thing I didn’t really like was when the film pulled away a little from the budding relationship between Helina and Camille. If it had become more a central point to the film, it could have allowed the film to develop more tension and suspense when the two love-birds lives were placed in danger.
Clearly the star of this film though is Suki Waterhouse, as he is very impressive in the role of Camille. Although her character is at times standoffish, Waterhouse portrays the character in such a way that she is still likable to the audience. Waterhouse also plays Camille in a way that portrays the character as is tough and ready for the next stoush, yet at the same time, showcasing a vulnerability that could end up being her downfall.
Really serious horror fans may not like the fact that Seance feels like a throwback to films like Urban Legend. But for those of us who grew up with Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer posters on our wall it is a worthy watch.