Movie Review: “Seance”

Suki Waterhouse, a deep-voice/zero-range “model/actress” plays the “new girl” at a “Seance” obsessed boarding school in this week’s classmate killer horror thriller.

While her look, voice and name are distinctive, I don’t recall her standing out in “The Broken Hearts Gallery” or “Assassination Nation” the way she does here. She’s utterly dreadful, but perhaps she hated the material and figured even “phoning it in” wasn’t worth the effort.

Expressionless Camille shows up an Eveldine Academy just after a seance that led to a teen’s suicide. But WAS it? A suicide?

Camille crosses swords with the mean girl clique, led by Alice (Inanna Sarkis) but including Roz (Djouliet Amara), Yvonne (Stephanie Sy), Bethany (Madisen Beaty) and Lenora (Jade Michael), young women of privilege prone to pranks.

“You really don’t want to get on our bad side.”

Luckily, the new girl with the English accent has one friend, Helina (Ella-Rae Smith), even if Helina’s agenda leans towards friend-with-benefits.

But they’re all in the same boat at this “haunted” school, with the recent suicide, which created an opening for Camille, perhaps caused by a ghost and not by the mean girls tricking, scaring and humiliating her into leaping out a window.

“Some people think that it was an accident,” Helina says. She and Camille are interested in finding out. But those scratching, creaking noises in the walls, lights constantly flickering out and apparitions mean that Alice’s seance-strategy is the one everybody pursues.

Is there a dead disgruntled alumna or something/someone else out to “get” the girls — picking them off one-by-one as they conveniently separate and find themselves alone and dead?

There’s a generous sampling of horror “mystery” cliches in this script, plenty of this or that death/disappearance “doesn’t make any sense.”

Writer-director Simon Barrett makes sure that everyone looks fabulous, as most are playing pretty, vain princesses, and those who aren’t immediately fall under suspicion.

The requisite titillation of the dead (female) teenager movie genre isn’t remotely titillating — a shower scene here, a leotarded dance rehearsal there.

And through it all stands Waterhouse, stone-faced and stiff, underreacting to this death or that bit of peril, selling the fight sequence with all she (and a stunt double) have.

At least she’s been cast in a new version of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion,” so perhaps that’s what was on her mind while Waterhouse was shooting this. But being second banana to the notoriously awful Dakota Johnson (google her and “bad actress”) tells us all we need to know about that. Perhaps Waterhouse realizes that, as well.

MPA Rating: R for bloody horror violence, language and some drug use 

Cast: Suki Waterhouse,  Madisen Beaty, Inanna Sarkis, Stephanie Sy, Ella-Rae Smith, Jamde Michael, Seamus Patterson

Credits: Scripted and directed by Simon Barrett. An RLJE/Shudder release.

Running time: 1:33

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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