31 Days of Hallowe’en 2021, Day 16: Seance [2021]

First of all, I’m annoyed that this film doesn’t use the accent-grave over the e in the title, because I specifically remembered to hold down that fucking key while typing. And then I had to delete it.

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Second, for a film that’s set in a hoity-toity private school full of rich cunts, NOBODY is able to pronounce the Latin ritual phrases correctly. Look, I’ve been casually learning Latin on Duolingo and even I could have made an better educated stab at saying those fucking words properly. It sounds like gammon trying to order Indian food from my parents.

Also: CW: descriptions of SH (in the very first scene)

Speaking of which: Fuck private schools. Why should I give a shit about any of these horrible, vacuous, underdeveloped characters who, by the way, are played by people clearly in their 30s and almost-30s? Everything that happens during this film is wildly and un-entertainingly implausible given the ages of these HIGH SCHOOL CHILDREN. Clearly they wanted a dorm setting, so they could have set it in a university, an international camp/work-abroad scheme, or even a damn youth hostel.

Anyway the fucking plot is thus: Camille (Suki Waterhouse) enrolls her Delevigne eyebrows in a fancy prep school in an unnamed state that clearly has snow and wood-panelled everything (so probably upstate NY). She immediately gets into a fight with one of the many queen bitches and the group, along with innocent bystander Helina (Ella-Rae Smith, turning in sympathetic and nuanced performance deserving of a far, FAR better film) is assigned detention, in which they’re conveniently tasked with some job the school would have had to have paid actual professionals to do (I can confirm this is an accurate practice of private schools). Of course, instead of getting on with it, they decide to have a seance for a character from their friend group who mysteriously died earlier in the film, only to realise that something something yada yada not what it seems danger blah blah The Craft, idk.

It’s the worst combination of feeble occult dramas and 90s slasher films in which everyone makes groaningly poor decisions (dancing on stage alone in the dark after two of your best friends got axed? Smart), but with none of the wry humour or dread of either genre staple. Scenes that are meant to be tense are dragged out for so long and with such painful under-editing that I almost fell asleep a few times (and I’m a night person). The tone is all over the place – the LARGE LETTER pink credits and gritty synth soundtrack by Sicker Man initially promised a retro-sapphic Satanic-panic vibe, but the film ultimately ends up collapsing under the weight of what it’s trying to pay homage to and how it’s trying to break that mould, ending up adrift in between the two with no real tangible bits to recommend.

Score: 🎃🎃

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