I’ve never been one to believe in ghosts, apparitions, or the spirit world (which is ironic for anyone who knows me). However, there are millions of reasons why ordinary people want to reach out to their loved ones who have passed on. Sadly, there are billions of dollars for those who claim they can actually “reach out” to them. A skeptic steps into the dangerous world of ghosts and spirits in director Christopher James Cramer’s comedy/horror, The Séance.
As the film opens, Nate (Michael Minto) conducts a séance in his home. Joined in the circle are about a half-dozen clients hoping to come face-to-face with someone from their past. In that mix is famed YouTube debunker Andy (Miranda Skerman), who wishes her experience at Nate’s séance would make great podcast material.
There’s nothing extraordinary about the séance. Everyone sits around a round table, holds hands, and invites the spirits to make themselves known. Soon, the son of grieving parents makes his presence known. The piano in the corner of the room begins playing the dead son’s favorite concerto, and with that convincer, the boy speaks to his parents through Nate.
After the séance is over, Andy hangs back and strikes up a conversation with Nate. Unfortunately, Nate already figured out that Andy is there to expose him as a fraud and invites her to search the room for wires, false walls, and the secret room where Nate’s co-conspirators can be found. But, of course, she finds nothing but is still unconvinced.
“…Nate already figured out that Andy is there to expose him as a fraud and invites her to search the room…”
Most of The Séance is about the interaction between Nate and Andy. The two engage in this battle of wits between the so-called medium and the internet-famous YouTuber. Let’s call this battle what it really is: a conversation.
As a longtime fan of Penn & Teller and the Amazing Randi, I have to give credit to the screenplay by RJ Buckley. Both he and Cramer masterfully straddle that line between authentic and phony. When I’ve seen fake seances, there’s a long checklist of tricks, gimmicks, and misdirection that a charlatan needs to check off to appear halfway credible. It’s not just enough to have a skeptic sit there and produce a ghost to prove their wrong. The Séance reverse engineers what an actual skeptic would look for in a fraud and address those specific points to prove spirits, in fact, do exist and Nate can talk to them. The social media aspect of Andy is handled really well and is loaded with intelligent dialogue.
Considering this is a film about a potentially fraudulent medium, Skerman has the role of the social media influencer protecting the pocketbooks of the emotionally vulnerable down pat. As the medium Nate, Minto understands his characters as he’s forced to walk that line between needing to be truthful and not really having to prove himself.
The third act gets into the supernatural and brings a mystery to be solved. As in all horror, the comedic/dramatic tone pulls the rug out on anything “scary” or “creepy” in the end. The Séance ends well, but I wish it would have nailed that perfect landing. To me, it’s all about the first two acts in the conversation between the skeptic and the spiritualist. The dialogue and the performances make it a worthwhile watch.
To be creeped out even more by The Séance, visit its Facebook page.
"…dialogue and the performances make it a worthwhile watch."