First, Séance, has mostly nothing to do with an actual conjuring anyone from the spirit world, rather takes nibbles from Suspiria [1977] primarily with the school setting aspects, and a bit from You’re Next [2011] which was written by Simon Barrett, who serves as director in his feature-length debut for this picture. However, early on the film struggles to find its own footing, while touching briefly on the horror genre and leaning more towards a mystery. Released from RLJE and making rounds on Shudder, supplying audiences with artificial jump scares and a touch of thrilling scenes.

It all starts in the very elite Edelvine Academy, an all-girls boarding school, where the lead student of all things is Alice (Inanna Sarkis (Happy Birthday [2016])) as she orders her ‘click’ to do as told, almost no one challenges her, this group of students which appear not quite as true friends. They plan to secretively conduct a séance in hopes of reaching a former student of school, who committed suicide a long time ago, it somehow triggers a traumatic episode for Kerrie (Megan Best), and she’s later discovered dead, another suicide. Sadly, it was all another cruel prank from Alice in the form of a séance, or was it something spiritually deeper? Shortly afterward and a tad too coincidentally, a new student, Camille (Suki Waterhouse), arrives to the school taking the deceased student, who viewers will see as an equal representation of Barrett’s character creation Erin from You’re Next, fighting back ability with cunning, intelligence, and physicality. to take the victim’s place at the academy the mystery has only just begun. Camille’s, mysterious arrival perplexes Head Mistress Mrs. Landry (Marina Stephenson Kerr (Cult of Chucky [2017])), and she learns that the new pupil won’t stand for humiliation or bullying from Alice. This defiance causes some classmates to switch allegiances in the power struggle within the school, it’s here that drama and mystery replaces any true sense of horror. Although, some violence does splash about as Camille begins examining the supposedly haunted happenings, such as the legend of the Edelvine Ghost; however, with her stellar transcript Landry wonders why this star student doesn’t excel more often. Meanwhile, taking a page of many horror clichés, there’s the slightly odd (a tad too much, in both mannerisms and appearance) headmistress’s son Trevor (Seamus Patterson (Books of Blood [2020])), but before more of the story unravels another séance is invoked this time to contact Kerrie to learn of how she met her demised, for the clues to solve the mystery. Barrett works hard to keep both the storyline and the Camille character a mystery, sadly, there’re too many cracks to seal them all.

There are few problems with the movie aside the lack frights, for the core of horror fans, namely approximately six students exist on the campus and that strangely no school would allow them to film the production. Unsure truly why as there’s been countless slashers, and demonic possession movie set in these settings beforehand, perhaps they read the script. Needless to say, the lack of one central place shrunk the number students, as eight separate locations were pieced together, and hence caused for shooting out of sequence in script which often leads to continuity errors and plot holes not discovered until it’s far too late; they used an abandoned bank, private home, then simply constructing sets for the scenes. The emotional response from the characters carries the film further downward, especially as their numbers reduced with each kill, this leads to a lack of tension, often found in slasher flicks. However, while some generate a stiff performance, Kerr delivers a solid portrayal of her character, allowing her position to exclude authority, the proper facial reactions, and forceful command to control her scenes. Barrett, appears to lack the conviction to tell his sluggish ghost story, relies on predictably clearly telegraph to any audience, to conclude the storyline with too many flaws and quite ludicrous finality. While, the cinematography, is conducted by the thoroughly talented Karim Hussain (We Are Still Here [2015]) it sadly finds much lost to editing and yet there’s fine work to distort certain scenes that are used to give the viewers apprehension – finally another plus.

I had hoped for a meaningful thriller, with some creative bloodshed, and the students starting at opposites ends and unifying against an evil presence whether it from a séance or something in the form of a human monster. Sadly, none of that happens, I relied too heavily on Barrett’s past scripts, the storyline might suit a Lifetime audience, or those less familiar with the horror genre, altogether. It thoroughly misses the mark with a mystery story too, therefore if you sought that look for Knives Out [2019] or Ready or Not [2019] which bring fun and enjoyment; those are missing from here and result in an incomplete dull story for an adult market, but this seems more intended for new fans to the horror genre.

IMDb Rating: 5.2/10

Baron’s Rating: 4.5/10