Director: Blair Erickson
Screenplay: Blair Erickson
Starring: Katia Winter, Michael McMillian, Ted Levine, Jenny Gabrielle
Running Time: 87 mins
BBFC Classification: 15
Firstly, let me say from the off that I’m not a big fan of the found footage kind of film featuring lots of shaky cam shots, liberally inserted with ‘made to look old’ film footage. It has its place, but I think Cannibal Holocaust did it best and very few films since have really been able to use the format to its obvious strengths. However, Banshee Chapter has a decent bash at this currently over used sub-genre and has managed the considerable feat of not annoying me so it must be doing something right!
A young web journalist, Anne Roland (played well by Dexter’s Katia Winter), is trying to find out what happened to an old university friend of hers who was writing a book about experiments performed by the US Government on volunteers and military personnel, looking at the effects of mind-altering drugs. Apparently her friend got hold of one of these banned chemicals, drank some, went very strange and disappeared. A couple of days later his friend, Renny Seegan, who was helping him, also went missing. After digging around her friend’s apartment and doing some research into short-wave radio signals (yeah, I know, the two don’t seem connected!) the clues finally lead Anne to an eccentric author’s abode.
The author, Thomas Blackburn, is obviously loosely based on real-life author Hunter S Thompson and is played very well by the ever reliable Ted Levine (The Silence of the Lambs). The two of them, after a couple of negative encounters, team up to try and find the source of a weird radio signal, which apparently seems to influence the brains of those who have taken the drug and allows them to see entities from another dimension.
Banshee Chapter has some good ideas, a few of which are pretty original, which is always a bit of a novelty these days. Writer/director Erickson has obviously gone to some trouble to research the rather controversial background to this story and it pays off, making the film seem a lot more plausible than most ‘ghostly’ horrors on the market today.
While it takes a while to hit its stride and some of the actions our heroine takes seem to be made off the back of some weird leaps of logic, Banshee Chapter at least tries to be different, although fans of H.P. Lovecraft will recognise where some of the ideas came from. In fact Levine’s character actually mentions Lovecraft and, at one point, references the story, which Stuart Gordon’s From Beyond was based on. There are actually some similarities between the two films, which ain’t a bad thing.
On a technical level the film is well crafted, for the most part, with only a few awkward edits and dodgy bits of sound. In a couple of places the dialogue is hard to hear, but this might have been deliberate – always difficult to know with this kind of film. There are a few lapses in logic. For example, at one point Levine’s character explains what one of the lab chairs would have been used for and Anne seems surprised by this, even though she’s already seen some of the archive footage of the CIA experiments on a tape, which clearly shows subjects being strapped into a similar holding chair. Maybe she was just having a ‘blonde moment’!
It seems that quite a few of the reviews of this film have made reference to how scary it is, but I think that very much depends on what sort of story and imagery get under your skin. Personally, I found it mildly creepy in places, and there are a couple of jump scares, but, for the most part, it plays out more like a thriller with a couple of horrific moments, rather than an out-and-out horror flick.
Overall, Banshee Chapter will please most horror and weird thriller fans and manages to hold your attention throughout; recommended.
Banshee Chapter has just been released on DVD and is being distributed by Intense Distribution and 101 Films. The extras include a ‘spoiler’ trailer and three short ‘behind the scenes’ featurettes, including: 'What is Banshee Chapter?', which features writer/director Blair Erickson chatting about his influences and where he came up with the idea from; 'Directing Banshee Chapter', where Blair says he wanted to give the film a documentary style and shows an early behind the scenes version of the entrails puking gore gag, where the director himself gets covered in offal; and 'The History Behind Banshee Chapter', which features some additional CIA footage. Pretty shallow stuff, for the most part, but still worth a look.
You can order Banshee Chapter from the following links:
Reviewer: Justin Richards