15 Dec 2013

'Banshee Chapter' Review

Another Found Footage Dud?

Director: Blair Erickson
Writer: Blair Erickson, Daniel J. Healy
Stars: Ted Levine, Katia Winter, Michael McMillian
Running Time: 87 mins
Sub-Genre: Supernatural, Conspiracy
Release: December 2013

The Banshee Chapter follows investigative journalist, Anna, researching a missing friend who ingested an undocumented research chemical once tested on civilians by CIA MK-Ultra experiments. The labyrinthine trail of evidence leads her into the disturbing world of black ops chemical tests, unexplained radio transmissions and disfigured entities in the blackness of night. Anna will do anything to uncover what lies behind her friend's disappearance but to her horror the entities are coming after her.

So, here we are again, watching the same type of film over and over. The Banshee Chapter however looks upon itself in a different light, and would also separate itself from the other derivative films such as The Dyatlov Pass Incident and Frankenstein's Army. However, there is very little difference from this and others that came before it, basically doing the same thing, which is getting a real story that has chunks missing, and coming up with an explanation that always involves government testing and always includes some twist ending to spice things up, when really all it does is remind you why it took the film this long to come out with something even remotely interesting. Banshee Chapter differs a little here, and actually proves quite fascinating around the first and final act, However, the fresh material it does equip itself with has a lot of baggage, the kind that nobody wants and the kind it doesn't need. It carries this quality of intelligence that is as out-of-place as it is stupid, and sometimes forgets to scare the audience, therefore we are left with huge chunks of unwanted material that moves the story at a snail's pace and is as interesting as The Last Exorcism Part 2. If you have seen that film you will know exactly what I am talking about.

The Banshee Chapter gets points for trying, it's half intense fright-fest, and half dull snore-fest. It starts you off in an extremely chilling manner, and it's accompanied by some seriously effective scares, but once the film hits its middle act, we are exposed to nothing but tedious bullshit that may benefit to the narrative, but it lacks the the scares that made the first half, and final act so interesting. Aside from a few aided jump scares, The Banshee Chapter doesn't quite develop its characters and style long enough to create a worthwhile piece, so the film in general just feels like a half-baked, half-assed attempt to have its intense scares and chilling narrative come hand-in-hand. It has one focus and one focus only which isn't a bad one, and that is to scare the audience. It does that very well, but there isn't enough scares to go around so you're left waiting for the next one.

Nothing new really comes from Banshee Chapter, and although it does carry a sense of originality, it just goes around this the completely different way. Fair enough, we have seen our fair share of found-footage horror, and they almost always base themselves around conspiracy theories that always have a link or two missing. This is that exact film, and may be the only time I will ever say "They should have used found-footage". I dislike the found-footage style just as much as the next horror buff, but Banshee Chapter would have benefited so much if it was done in that manner. It starts off with the whole "missing tape" gimmick, and then ditches it once the main narrative begins to run, but strangely, it worked and made the beginning of the film so much scarier that the rest. Perhaps done with a shaky-cam and a screaming man behind it then Banshee Chapter could have been a lot more effective, but it never, so we were left with a lifeless attempt at something new, and something different.

VERDICT: The Banshee Chapter is chilling with its delivery of genuine frights, but overall, it proves to be another unwanted, bold and tedious conspiracy horror that is just as good as the next one; Perhaps too ambitious for its own good.

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