Seance on Shudder is a mediocre horror movie

Seance. Shudder, 92 minutes. Two stars

If you took Mean Girls and mixed it with elements from a bunch of other horror movies such as Suspiria and Ouija, you would probably come up with something like Seance.

The story - no relation to the 2006 film of the same title - is set at the Edelvine School for Girls.

It's one of those big, remote, snooty boarding schools where the uniform dress code includes tie, blazer, short skirt and socks that go over the knees.

The head clique, led by uberbitch Alice (Inanna Sarkis) is very much in charge, though it's all too apparent that for such a big place, there are very few students or teachers: perhaps the film's budget didn't extend to hiring extras.

The only staff seem to be the headmistress, Mrs Landry (Trina Stephenson Kerr) and her son Trevor (Seamus Patterson), who works as the school's handyman.

Such places tend to be full of traditions, especially in movies like this, and at Edelvine one of them is trying to freak out those not deemed worthy to be on the inside.

The film begins with the mean girls playing a prank on their classmate Kerrie involving the urban legend of the Edelvine Ghost, the spirit of a student who committed suicide at the school (if these girls are the kind of people she had to contend with, it would, sadly, not be surprising).

Kerrie is upset and after she runs back to her room, the others hear her scream and discover she has somehow fallen to her death out her upper-floor window.

For many schools, this would lead to scandal and at least a temporary shutdown, but Edelvine apparently just keeps on going and shortly thereafter a new senior student, English girl Camille Meadows (Suki Waterhouse), arrives.

Naturally, she's put in Kerrie's old room.

Alice and her minions try to intimidate her but she's made of sterner stuff than her ill-fated predecessor: sharp-tongued and not afraid to get physical if necessary.

The only one of the girls who treats Camille decently is Helena (Ellie-Rae Smith).

When Alice suggests a seance to try to contact the dead Kerrie, she convinces Camille and Helena to take part too.

They suspect another prank but then it seems like contact is actually made with someone. Is it Kerrie? Could there really be an Edelvine Ghost?

Whoever or whatever it is, this spirit isn't the happy type, saying the girls will all be killed.

And shortly thereafter, one of them is.

Seance marks Simon Barrett's debut as director as well as writer: he's scripted quite a few horror movies including You're Next (2011).

Perhaps taking on double duty meant he overstretched himself, and a presumably low budget didn't help, since there are a lot of things that stretch credulity here.

This girls' boarding school horror movie is the sort of thing teenagers might watch at a slumber party for some cheap thrills (here's hoping their schools are nothing like this one, even before the deaths start coming).

There's a bit of blood - one character is beheaded - and some swearing, but it's relatively tame as far as horror movies go.

The cinematography by Karim Hussain is so dim most of the time, even inside, that it's occasionally hard to make out what's going on, as though the lens were covered by a black stocking.

Stephanie Sy, left, Inanna Sarkis, Madisen Beaty, Djouliet Amara, Suki Waterhouse, and Ella-Rae Smith in Seance. Picture: RLJE Films and Shudder.

Stephanie Sy, left, Inanna Sarkis, Madisen Beaty, Djouliet Amara, Suki Waterhouse, and Ella-Rae Smith in Seance. Picture: RLJE Films and Shudder.

The actors range from competent to bland, but the acting isn't the problem.

Seance has some twists, and isn't exploitative the way some horror movies are (those looking for nudity will be disappointed).

But the characters are thin, some potentially intriguing avenues are not taken that would flesh things out a bit, and there's too much reliance on contrivance, cliches, and coincidence, even given the accepted tropes of the genre.

Without spoiling things too much, there's a James Bond Villain Speech and the frustrating not-checking-if-an-incapacitated-adversary-is-dead bit.

Seance isn't boring but nor is it anything special or scary. If you want 90 minutes' diversion, you could try it.

This story Mean girls horror movie is ... meh first appeared on The Canberra Times.