Stream to Scream: “SEANCE: THE SUMMONING”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s available, FANGORIA is taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with Stream to Scream. Today: Alex Wright’s exorcism movie SEANCE: THE SUMMONING.
One of the problems with a lot of modern day possession/exorcism films is that since they follow a very specific set of rules, they’re often quite predictable and repetitive, or at their very worst, a shameless rip-off of exorcism flicks that came before them. Since then, the possession/exorcism genre has tried on many hats to try reinventing themselves, especially as of late within the found footage genre. But every now and then, something different appears from the genre, breaking expectations to allow for a more unpredictable possession story. However, in the case of SEANCE: THE SUMMONING, the genre-defying elements of the film escalate from scary to absolutely bonkers, offering a fright flick that’s almost as schizophrenic as the possessed within it.
Written and directed by Alex Wright, SEANCE: THE SUMMONING hints at a silliness with a cheesy opening text drawl before we’re introduced to our main characters who are at first grating but eventually grow much more palatable. Despite the key art featured on our Hulu page, there isn’t a little ghost girl or satanic ritual to be found, as we follow four friends who attempt to prove the spirit world via a Seance in a Mortuary. To be honest, SEANCE: THE SUMMONING has a quite solid first act, setting up an eerie atmosphere and prepares some interesting character twists that helps raise the tension. And by allowing the generic non-believer character to turn their skepticism up to 110%, SEANCE: THE SUMMONING almost has a sense of karmic cinematic justice that turns the wheels of suspense.
And while the film follows a fairly expected path towards the beginning of the second act following an unexpected death scene, there’s a certain moment where the film suddenly and shockingly goes from effective possession horror to absurdly on-the-nose religious territory. That’s not to say the film abandons the bloodier aspects of the film; to the contrary, most of the gorier and more brutal moments happen once things cross over. But when the film actively chooses a single religion to pursue as opposed to the spirit world as a whole, everything from the dialogue to the performances to the on-screen action goes into a much more sillier and insane place, positing one of the most jarring tonal shifts in recent memory.
However, while the film’s value as a genuinely scary film lessens once the jump is made, the film’s value as an unintentional comedy rises exponentially. From hilarious “demon” voicing and perv rhetoric to sequences where crying ghost babies turn into a pile of rats in CGI smoke, SEANCE becomes a jaw-dropping exorcise in religious allegories to the highest degree possible. In fact, once an all-too-obvious sub-plot about one character’s abortion comes into frame, SEANCE deals with the subject with the tastefulness of a demon screaming “BABYKILLER” at someone over and over because that’s literally what happens.
Overall, while SEANCE: THE SUMMONING does get off to a rather promising start, fans of campier fright affairs will be the only ones remaining by the closing credits, as the film’s 180 degree spin into flat-out bananas storytelling makes this film more ridiculous than wicked. But in any case, it’s still much more watchable than any derivative or paint-by-numbers possession story, and even gorehounds will appreciate some of the more gruesome practical effects shown throughout the nastier bits of the third act.