‘Seance’ Movie Review: Final Mean Girls

Simon Barrett, the writer of You’re Next, The Guest and 2016’s Blair Witch makes his feature directing debut with the horror movie Seance. Barrett directed a segment of V/H/S 2 and other shorts, and he also wrote Seance himself. The latest film shares many of the standout qualities of Barrett’s other genre hybrids, this time subjecting high school mean girls to horror. 

Seance cast plays with a Ouija board
L-R: Stephanie Sy, Inanna Sarkis, Madisen Beaty, Djouliet Amara, Suki Waterhouse and Ella-Rae Smith | RLJE Films and Shudder

What is the horror movie ‘Seance’ about?

A group of girls in a boarding school dorm bathroom play a Bloody Mary-esque prank. That night, Kerrie (Megan Best) jumps out her dorm window and dies, although headmaster Miss Landry (Marina Stephenson Kerr) says Kerrie slipped. Transferring senior Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse) gets Kerrie’s old room. 

Mean girls of Seance in the dorm hall
L-R: Madisen Beaty, Inanna Sarkis, Ella-Rae Smith, Djouliet Amara, Suki Waterhouse, and Stephanie Sy |RLJE Films and Shudder

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Camille makes quick friends with Helina (Ella-Rae Smith) who shows her around. She also stands up to the mean girls, led by Alice (Inanna Sarkis) the first time they meet. While on group punishment in the library, including Yvonne (Stephanie Sy), Lenora (Jade Michael), Bethany (Madisen Beaty) and Rosalind (Djouliet Amara), the girls use a ouija board. 

What’s scary about ‘Seance’?

Any time characters in a horror movie break out a ouija board, you know they’re not going to connect with friendly spirits. The cool thing about Seance is, Barrett isn’t just playing with supernatural scares. There are more fakeout scares when the mean girls do it to Camille (did they learn nothing from Kerrie’s death?) 

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Whenever a character is alone, dread builds that they are in danger. Some characters go missing and the girls find occult symbols in the missing girls’ domiciles. There are plenty of dark corners with flickering lights around the school to set the mood. 

Seance keeps you guessing about what kind of horror it is. It leans heavily into ghosts but keeps enough mystery that it could be anything. Most of the characters are inclined to look for practical explanations, as macabre as they may be. But, the believers may be right.

The characters make the horror believable

If there were no deaths or macabre mysteries going on in Seance, it would still be a believable story of high school/college culture. Most high schoolers get to go home from the mean girls, but when you live together it must be even more intense. 

Seance star Suki Waterhouse walks on campus
Suki Waterhouse | RLJE Films and Shudder

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All of these characters are believable in their own way. Some bond, whether it’s Camille and Helina or Alice’s underlings sticking together. The fact that Camille continues to ignore Alice’s power plays shows how she holds her own. This is a real group dynamic, and their involvement in mysterious deaths forces them to remain a group, let alone being in the same boarding school together. 

To get any more specific would spoil some of Seance’s surprises. Suffice it to say, Barrett himself is well-schooled in genre. Like You’re Next was a hybrid home invasion/slasher movie and The Guest was a paranoid thriller meets action movie, Seance has some unexpected tonal pairings that add up to something devilishly new. 

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