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Séance Blu-ray Review

Written by R.J. MacReady

Blu-ray released by RLJ Entertainment | Shudder

seance poster large

Written and directed by Simon Barrett
2021, 93 Minutes, Not Rated
Released on May 18th, 2021

Suki Waterhouse as Camille Meadows
Madisen Beaty as Bethany
Inanna Sarkis as Alice
Ella-Rae Smith as Helina
Stephanie Sy as Yvonne

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I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t usually waste my time with a movie called Séance. As far as horror movie tropes go, the séance is one of the most over-used, and rarely does one bring anything new to the table.

However, this flick hails from a writer whose work I have liked, and being his first gig as a writer/director, I was interested to see whether he’d be the next Leigh Whannell (the writer of Saw, Insidious, and others, who transitioned into a writer/director on Upgrade and The Invisible Man).

Simon Barrett has notably written Dead Birds, You’re Next, VHS 1 & 2, my personal favorite The Guest, and Blair Witch. Will he bring something new to the seance, or are we going to get rehashed material? Let’s summon some spirits and find out.

We open on a group of prep school girls in a bathroom doing a variation of the Bloody Mary ritual. Say “Eldersburg ghost” a couple of times and she’ll appear in the mirror behind you. The lights begin to flicker, and a bathtub fills with blood, and it’s all too much for one girl. She screams and runs out, and is found dead later, having fallen out of the window to the cement a few stories below.

A new girl moves into her dorm room, and she soon gets pulled into this group of mean girls and their attempts to summon this ghost.

As always, that’s all I’m going to give you plot-wise. I’m not big on ruining surprises or giving too much away because it’s a pet peeve of mine, and one of the reasons I don’t watch trailers for movies I’m interested in seeing. To describe more of this movie would let quite a few cats out of the bag, so if you’re interested in this flick then I’d avoid reading too much about it.

The important part is trying to get across whether this movie is worth watching. Writer/director Simon Barrett does manage to subvert expectations, and this movie definitely won’t be exactly what you’re expecting if you thought you’d be getting a Ouija-type flick.

As Simon talks about in the commentary, he wanted to do a bit of a giallo-meets-teen-girl mystery like the “Babysitter” books he read growing up, and it’s very much that. You’re never quite sure what’s going on—well, okay, I had a bit of an idea, but I’m sort of ridiculous at those things—until the end of the flick when the secrets are revealed.

The acting from the girls is all pretty good, and the cast is diverse enough that you don’t confuse anyone with anyone else—always an issue with a large cast of same-sex, same-age characters.

The movie has some cool gore and a fun decapitation, but nothing other than that is too over the top. There’s a host of throat slashings and whatnot. I will say it’s a little disappointing to have a shower scene in a movie with no nudity—come on, we have a tradition to uphold here, people. (And director Barrett even mentions in the commentary that he loved Kevin Tenney’s Witchboard, which features—yes, you guessed it—a shower scene with some boobs.)

I’ve talked around it, but the big question you’re asking is, “RJ, is it worth watching?” I’d give it a solid “Probably.” I wouldn’t say you need to seek it out immediately, but if you enjoy horror movies with a '90s feel then you could certainly do worse. Séance is a mystery/horror filled with cute girls done on a small budget, so if that’s your thing then give it a try.

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Video and Audio:

The 2.39:1 aspect ratio presentation is a very nice picture. No noticeable grain or compression, and the cinematography is crisp. Special anamorphic lenses were used and give the image an old-school feel in some scenes.

The offered DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is excellent with the music never overpowering the voices on my setup. English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles are offered.

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Special Features:

First up is the feature-length commentary with director Simon Barrett. He’s a pretty witty guy, which you’d know if you follow his Twitter feed, and he brings a bit of that here. He wavers between apologetic and interesting, sometimes both at the same time, but keeps the information flowing about the who, what, where and whys, and is surprisingly forthcoming about details like budget and why they had to kill all those animals for real. Okay, that last part I made up just to see if you were still paying attention. If you like commentaries about how movies are made and why directors make the decisions they make, this is a pretty good one. (And Simon is concerned whether you like it, because apparently, his commentary with Adam Wingard on Blair Witch didn’t go over too well with audiences.)

I applaud them for trying to put together something for the behind-the-scenes (18:08) that’s more than the five-minute fluff reel, but there’s not a lot here other than the actresses talking about how much they like their characters and the director.

Not much in the outtakes (1:52) is funny.

The six deleted scenes—each with optional director’s commentary—don’t add much. One scene does give an answer about some blood found on a bed that’s never tied up in the movie, but I had honestly forgotten about it by the end of the film.

Sorry to ruin this if you wanted a real pre-viz ala Marvel Studios, but Decapitation Pre-Viz (:21) is pretty funny to watch. I’m not going to ruin what it really is, just watch it.

Twenty behind the scenes stills from the movie round it out.

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Movie: Grade Cover
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Video: Grade
Audio: Grade
Features: Grade
Overall: 4 Star Rating

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About The Author
R.J. MacReady
Staff Reviewer - USA
RJ MacReady digs horror movies, even though his first memory of horror films is watching the first Friday the 13th movie while a bear mauled his family in the other room. He admits that most of his bio is as fake as his moniker, but witness protection won't let him use his real name.
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