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’d never really been a fan of the horror anthology style of film – 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, Seance is 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, called 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 – Love, Rosie), that the students death was in fact an accident she soon learns after talking to fellow student Helina (Ella-Rae Smith – The Stranger) that the death actually followed immediately after a cruel prank pulled by the very popular Alice (Inanna Sarkis – After).
As Camille looks more into how he girl she finds that the school itself appears to be haunted while she soon finds herself in her own confusing situation as she draws closer to Helina but also seems to be developing feelings for the school’s handyman, Trevor (Seamus Patterson – Guest Of Honor).
I think what I loved the most about Seance was the fact that because Barrett plays with so many horror tropes and ‘inner genres’ within the film you never really know what is going to happen next. At the beginning the film feels like a mix between Harry Potter, Ouija and Mean Girls and from there it meanders in such a way that you are never really sure where the film is going to end up being a supernatural film or simply just a serial killer film.
The film is written in such a way that there are even questions over the hero herself, Camille. She seems to quick to label Alice and her clique the enemies while little things about her 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 the fact that I thought the film pulled away a little from the budding relationship between Helina and Camille. If it had become more a centre point to the film it could have allowed the film itself 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. She is very good 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 you can see that she is tough and ready for the next stoush but at the same time has a vulnerability to herself 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 Legends 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.