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Review: Don't bother lighting a candle for this 'Seance'

Suki Waterhouse stars in standard horror story that only flirts with the supernatural.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

In "Seance," students at an elite boarding school are being picked off one by one. 

This is a problem for several reasons. One, the students think it could be the ghost of a former student that's doing the killing, a supernatural hassle that gives them all the creeps. Two, there only seem to be about a dozen students at this school, so each killing is severely depleting the student body. 

Ella-Rae Smith and Suki Waterhouse in "Seance."

So the students — or what's left of them — set out to solve the murders in this dimly lit horror tale that only flirts with the spirit world on a surface level. "Seance" is a much more straightforward tale than it initially lets on, and its pulse or pacing never rises above the minimum requirements of the genre. 

After one of the students at the Edelvine Academy for Girls turns up dead, Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse) enrolls and takes her place. (It's clearly a one-in, one-out policy at this school.) When more bodies start to turn up, the suspect list is super short: is it one of the mean girl students, the stern headmaster (Marina Stephenson-Kerr), the headmaster's son (Seamus Patterson) or the ghost of a student who died way back in the '90s? 

Simon Barrett, who wrote the Adam Wingard thrillers "You're Next" and "The Guest," makes his feature writing and directing debut here but doesn't find the electricity of either of earlier collaborations. The characters here are barely developed beyond various shades of unpleasant, and aren't positioned as anything more than victims waiting to be picked off. 

The final act has a few impossible-to-see-coming twists that could have made what came before more interesting. But mostly, "Seance" is a paint-by-numbers horror tale, and the paint is running dry.




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

Running time: 92 minutes

Available On Demand