"Like his previous works, it has quite a few twists and turns along the way, and although seasoned horror viewers won’t have much difficulty guessing most of them, there’s still a good bit of fun to be had."

Lenora (Jade Michael), Bethany (Madisen Beaty) and their gang love to play tricks. They have to do something to pass the time in an elite private school which seems mostly empty, and they’re also exercising the type of entitled cruelty which a certain type of girl in every school is drawn to, but when they decide to stand before a mirror and try to summon the ghost long rumoured to haunt the establishment, they may have gone too far. Before long a girl is dead and other girls whisper that her killer might be coming for all of them.

The film proper opens with the arrival at the school of a new student (Suki Waterhouse, a standout in 2018’s Charlie Says), who is there to take the dead girl’s place. This is Camille (all the names here seem to be drawn from Gothic literature), and she seems a little older than the others, notably calmer and more centred. Her casual refusal to bow to the demands of the ruling clique leads to a fight which lands them all in detention, but it also wins her a place among them, along with the affections of the shyly endearing Helina (Ella-Rae Smith). And what is detention if not an opportunity to conduct another séance? After this one, however, the girls begin dropping like flies. With the headmistress seemingly unwilling to take any action beyond sending her students to their rooms, it’s left to Camille to try to figure out what’s going on and what – if anything – can be done to stop it.

Simon Barrett has already made quite a name for himself as a writer, with the likes of You’re Next and The Guest, and this is his first full length feature as a director, another strong vehicle for capable young actresses. Like his previous works, it has quite a few twists and turns along the way, and although seasoned horror viewers won’t have much difficulty guessing most of them, there’s still a good bit of fun to be had. Some of his set pieces come together very well but elsewhere his inexperience shows, with rough transitions and some awkward shifts in perspective which have nothing to do with the story. The continuity is particularly poor, but smaller films can rarely afford a dedicated person to look after that. Many of the film’s problems clearly stem from its low budget.

Where it succeeds is with the performances. There are slightly too many characters for all of them to be properly developed and sometimes the dialogue lets the actors down (always more of a problem with young people who feel less able to suggest changing it), but the principal cast members work together well, each delivering solid work without hogging the limelight. Not being long out of school themselves, they can easily relate to that kind of social environment. It’s the lower level tension between the girls, as much as the dramatics of the storyline, which carries the film.

With this in mind, the film is likely to appeal most strongly to others in that age group, but there’s enough of a mystery for it to attract a wider cohort of ghost story fans as well. Apart from a couple of big moments which are unlikely to be taken too seriously, the violence is hinted at rather than shown directly, so squeamishness shouldn’t be too much of a barrier. Despite its flaws, this is an amiable little film which should help all involved to move forwards and further develop their skills.

Reviewed on: 15 Jan 2022
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A group of teenagers at an elite boarding school become convinced that a ghost is coming for them.

Director: Simon Barrett

Writer: Simon Barrett

Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Madisen Beaty, Inanna Sarkis, Ella-Rae Smith, Stephanie Sy, Djouliet Amara, Jade michael, Seamus Patterson

Year: 2021

Runtime: 92 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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