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John’s Horror Corner: Séance (2021), a catty ‘Mean Girls’ high school horror splicing the haunting and slasher genres.

July 30, 2021

MY CALL: Familiar yet not terribly predictable, this haunter-slasher is probably best suited for a younger audience seeking a less intense horror selection.

Disclaimer: A screener was provided by a PR/Media group/company. However, I was not paid or compensated to write this nor were there any conditions to my receiving the screener other than my solicited review and the timing of its posting.

Short Summary from IMDB: “Camille, a young woman who arrives at the Fairfield Academy following one of the student’s untimely and violent death.”

Where can WATCH NOW? RLJE Films will release SÉANCE On Demand, Digital, DVD and Blu-ray on August 3rd. To watch on Amazon just CLICK HERE.

SOLICITED REVIEWS: On occasion I accept requests for solicited reviews. But make no mistake, I have a day job, limited time and I’m not a professional. My favoritism to accept solicitations leans towards those who offer a physical screener, but that favoritism does not de facto earn a favorable review—but a “fair” review. Examples of my solicited reviews include Belzebuth (2017; US release 2020), Scare Package (2019), Iron Sky: The Coming Race (2019), The Haunting of Sharon Tate (2019), The Unseen (2017; aka Amourosis), The Belko Experiment (2016) and The Barn (2016).

After the tragic death of an Edelvine Academy student, the prestigious girls’ prep school quickly produces an opening for Camille (Suki Waterhouse; The Bad Batch, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) to replace her. Upon her arrival, the territorial Mean Girls vibe is most unhospitable with instant violent bullying. Without necessarily packing an overly strong young adult feeling, the character writing isn’t as mature as I’d prefer. The tone is somewhere in the neighborhood of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019) or The Craft: Legacy (2020).

From the time of Camille’s arrival, she seems to be the only student experiencing a haunting in the old schoolhouse. Flickering lights, nightmares and visions of figures in dark corners cast an atmosphere of mild menace. But when the girls perform a séance to contact their recently deceased classmate, they are more successful than they anticipated and their classmates begin to disappear… or meet a stabby demise. Did they summon an evil spirit? Who or what is killing the students of Edelvine Academy?

Camille’s classmates include, but are not limited to Bethany (Madisen Beaty; The Clovehitch Killer), Helina (Ella-Rae Smith; Into the Badlands), Alice (Inanna Sarkis) and Yvonne (Stephanie Sy; The Grudge).

The deaths are largely rather toothless, making this rather unpleasing for well-seasoned horror hounds but perhaps well-suited for beginners to the genre (or those who prefer their horror and death scenes less direly intense). This really isn’t very creepy, scary or shocking at all, and it isn’t gory or brutal—at least, not until the very last two deaths which felt like they were from a different and better movie entirely. I was generally quite unmoved until those final death scenes.

This is not my favorite work of writer and director Simon Barrett (V/H/S 2 segment “Tape 49”, Blair Witch, You’re Next). This movie isn’t bad… but it’s definitely not for me. I don’t even feel I’m the right person to say if it’s good, regardless of the perceived target audience. That said, I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t very predictable considering how ‘familiar’ it felt in the beginning.

So take my review with a heaping handful of chunky grains of salt, for I am a graybeard horror fan reared on gory 80s classics. So, yes, I mean it when I say that I found not a moment of this movie shocking, scary or unnerving. But if I had sat through a few thousand horror movies less, I could see how it might please a greener, younger audience.

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