Inspired by gory Italian horror classics, this hushed, wintry movie mixes things up and keeps viewers guessing by cleverly alternating supernatural, nightmare imagery with human-created scares. The feature directing debut by screenwriter Simon Barrett (You're Next, The Guest, Blair Witch) -- who also directed the wrapraound segment of V/H/S/2 -- Seance shows a definite awareness of movie history and horror clichés. Sometimes the movie plays right into them (as when one character decides to practice her ballet, alone, in the dark, with headphones on, while a killer is loose), and other times, nothing is what it seems.
The movie's mood, which matches the ever drifting snow, is chilled and quiet, enhancing the quality of the scary scenes. When something suddenly jumps out, it carries a bigger shock. But the mood also extends to the characters, who sometimes seem half-frozen themselves. They're still appealing, as many seem driven by loneliness, but if the few connections that are made on-screen could have been emotionally elevated a little bit, their impact could have been much stronger. Still, Seance is a smart, satisfying movie and a promising debut by Barrett.