Thursday, May 20, 2021

Seance Review: A Wonderfully Understated Murder Mystery

Release date: May 21, 2021
Running time: 92 minutes
Starring: Suki Waterhouse (Assassination Nation, The Divergent Series: Insurgent), Madisen Beaty (Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), Ella-Rae Smith (“Into the Badlands”, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw), Inanna Sarkis (Boo 2! A Madea Halloween, After franchise),  Seamus Patterson (“Channel Zero”) and Marina Stephenson-Kerr (“Channel Zero”).
Written and Directed By: Simon Barrett (You’re Next, The Guest)

Camille Meadows is the new girl at the prestigious Edelvine Academy for Girls. Soon after her arrival, six girls invite her to join them in a late-night ritual, calling forth the spirit of a dead former student who reportedly haunts their halls. But before morning, one of the girls is dead, leaving the others wondering what they may have awakened.

Seance is most striking in the underrated nature of it.  The film, set in a prestigious female boarding school, keeps a measured tone during much of it.  That is not to say that there is no emotion, but overall the film relies on its story telling and not emotional manipulation to keep you engaged.  And it is perfectly fitting with the characters and charm of the school; they are taught not to act out so the film also doesn't overexert itself.  There are few jump scares, there is not a lot of gore initially, and mainly the story is progressed through conversations between the main group of young women and some light action scenes.  And throughout this all Seance has a wonderful otherworldly electronic soundtrack that fits the tone and setting perfectly.  

But that is not to say that this film is not a good murder mystery.  The movie keeps you guessing what will happen next, with quick kills and unsettling setups that make you wonder where the ghost will strike next.  The movie reveals everything slowly and lets the story speak for itself.  And the kills are varied as well; you don't get a lot of gore but there is a nice variety in the film.  Seance also sets these up well, with nice quick scenes that give you a sense of unease without dwelling on it.  And the underlying supernatural aspects of the film are perfectly intertwined with this.  The story feels right of a boarding school history, with the perfect setting and enough touches to keep you intrigued.  

And what also impressed me about this film is the sheer lack of gimmicks.  There appears to be no CG, no large jump scares, no over the top sequences.  The terror is from the girls not knowing what is going on or who will be targeted next.  The kills are slow to build up but occur quickly.  And through it all the mystery and conflicting personalities of the main group propel the story and keep you interested.  Seance is a movie that doesn't try to, but inevitably will leave an impression on you.  And the film also has a satisfying ending that ties the movie together.

Seance's understated tone, great cast, and wonderful setting summon a mysterious and thoroughly enjoyable murder mystery.  

Watch it.

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Seance is available in theaters, on demand and digitally on May 21, 2021.

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