Home » Simon Barrett’s Seance is a Little Too Derivative [Blu-ray Review]

Simon Barrett’s Seance is a Little Too Derivative [Blu-ray Review]


I admire Simon Barrett as a filmmaker. And I love nearly all of his creative output. You’re Next is an all-time favorite of mine and The Guest really dazzled me. So, I was excited to check out Seance when I learned he was assuming writing and directing duties. Unfortunately, this one didn’t quite land for me. It has a handful of great qualities but it’s ultimately a bit too derivative.  

Seance sees a group of young women at a boarding school holding a seance, only to later find they may have conjured a malevolent spirit with an axe to grind. New student Camille, falls in with a group of ‘mean girls’ and together, they attempt to find a reason for the rash of deaths on campus. 

As for what works, I was really impressed with some of the kill sequences in Seance. The death by filing cabinet scene was especially brutal and very imaginative. And that’s not the only noteworthy demise contained within the film’s runtime. 

I was also pleased to see a fairly diverse cast of characters and even an LGBTQ+ storyline that wasn’t fetishized and wasn’t even overtly sexual. It’s great to see more representation for cultures and groups that previously weren’t particularly visible onscreen. 

I was also impressed by the set design. Nearly the entire film is set within the halls of the boarding school and the sets and decor really helped bring the audience into that world. 

Getting into what didn’t work, I was disappointed by how derivative the film appears to be. It was as if Barrett took the basic story elements from Dario Argento’s Suspiria, Lucky McKee’s The Woods, and Narciso Ibáñez Serrador’s The House that Screamed and cobbled them together to make Seance. There are a few twists and subversions of expectations. But so many of the core story elements feel like they were directly lifted from those three films. 


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The idea of a new student transferring to an all girl’s boarding school with ghostly secrets and then getting bullied by her classmates is more than a little reminiscent of Lucky McKee’s The Woods. Moreover, the big reveal feels like much more than a mere hat tip to The House that Screamed. Additionally, large parts of the narrative seem to be paying tribute to Suspiria but if you strip away all of the inspirations, there is very little left. 

I was also let down by the lack of tension building. You’re Next and The Guest are rife with suspense. But a lot of the kills in Seance lack the kind of anticipation and buildup one would expect. And subsequently, a lot of the death scenes (particularly earlier in the film) fall flat. 

Making matters worse, the vast majority of the characters are really unpleasant and thus difficult to invest in. Camille (Suki Waterhouse) and Helina (Ella-Rae Smith) are likable enough and their friendship feels very genuine. But they are still under-developed. I understand that Barret was trying to build up to the final reveal by keeping Camille’s character details under wraps. But I needed more of a reason to cheer for her. 

The reveal behind whom or what is responsible for the killings feels hollow and generic. The explanation of the events leading to the murders of multiple students is trite and I found it impossible to buy into it. There’s very little that’s original about it. 

As for bonus features, there is a making of featurette that gives viewers a peak behind the scenes. The actresses discuss their on set camaraderie and the bonds they developed throughout the shoot. Also included are a series of outtakes and deleted scenes that might be fun for fans of the film to dive into.  

If you’re keen to check out Seance, it is now available on DVD and Blu-ray from RLJE. 

Wicked Rating: 5/10

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Written by Tyler Doupé
Tyler Doupe' is the managing editor at Wicked Horror. He has previously penned for Fangoria Mag, Rue Morgue Mag, FEARnet, Fandango, ConTV, Ranker, Shock Till You Drop, ChillerTV, ComingSoon, and more. He lives with his husband, his dog, and cat hat(s).
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