Tag Archives: Suki Waterhouse

School Daze


by Hope Madden

Off in the dusty old Edelvine boarding school, the girls are restless. They need something to pass the time, something to entertain them. They need a Séance.

Essentially, the mean girls gather in a dorm lav and Candyman the school’s ghost—saying her name 3 times at 3:13 am, the moment she died, in the very bathroom where it all happened.

Oooo, spooky!

Well, it’s all just a harmless prank until one of the girls winds up dead. Was it the ghost?

Fast forward a bit and Camille (Suki Waterhouse) arrives to fill the vacant room. More girls go missing or turn up dead in a film that cannot find a way to say anything new. Simon Barrett has written some good stuff: Blair Witch (2016), The Guest (2014), You’re Next (2011), Dead Birds (2004). He had not directed any features prior to Séance, but it’s hard to blame this film’s doldrums on its direction. The story just isn’t there.

Everything feels borrowed, not from any film in particular, but from the collective unconscious of dorm room horror that involves whispering ghosts, nubile schoolgirls, glinting blades and mystery. Barrett’s writing has tended to utilize tropes from the 80s and 90s to lull audiences into a sense of familiarity that allows him to deliver unexpected thrills.

His latest pulls most clearly from 90s staples like the Urban Legend franchise. But when he zigs instead of zags, the lull has turned stupor and Séance’s surprises just aren’t enough to snap us out of it.

Performances are fine, production values solid. There’s nothing embarrassing here, just nothing to get excited about. Some of the film’s sleights of hand are clever enough, but the storytelling is so anemic that it’s hard to applaud them. Barrett generates no dread and no sense of connection to any of the characters.

Unlike Guest’s Maika Monroe or You’re Next’s Sharni Vinson, who command the screen and drive the film, Waterhouse delivers a mainly listless performance. She’s neither scared nor curious, and though her bursts of ferocity feel cagey, it’s not enough to inject the film with any fire.

Tragedy Purge

Assassination Nation

by Hope Madden

What if a rich white man reclaimed Salem, Mass for ostracized and victimized women by creating an outrageous, violent yarn about our out-of-control, whatever world?

In the case of Sam (son of Barry) Levinson’s latest, a cross between Tragedy Girls and The Purge, the result is the self-conscious, self-righteous and sloppy Assassination Nation.

A cautionary tale about online living, social media saturation, toxic masculinity, mob mentality, rape culture…I’m sorry—where was I? A lot. Levinson’s film is mad about a lot of stuff. And it will empower young women, mainly by filming them braless and wearing shorts that are bound to cause a yeast infection.

Four high school besties (Odessa Young, Hari Nef, Suki Waterhouse, Abra) find themselves unsure if they will survive the night once a hacker shares half the town’s digital secrets with the world. What follows is a vibrant, kinetic spectacle that deserves note if only for its raucous attention to basically anything and everything that might make a teenage girl feel violently self-righteous.

All of it’s empty, of course: lurid and stylish, pseudo-feminist and pretend-woke. Like the opening sequence “trigger warning,” the film promises something it lacks the spine to deliver.

Here’s the point, if there is one: the perils of high school are more horrifying than they were a generation ago. Hell, they’re probably twice as bad as they were two years ago. But high school kids are just as idiotic, self-absorbed, naïve and insecure as they ever were, so things are going badly.

But rather than empathize or provide insight, Assassination Nation offers exploitation and voyeurism. It’s one of those things you can try to get away with by passing it off as culturally relevant, zeitgeist embracing irony. That’s a tactic that might work if you aren’t just cribbing from two more clever and socially aware films where characters wear bras.