Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Banshee Chapter

First-time director/co-writer Blair Erickson's Blair Witch-style mind-freak successfully mines the history of U.S. government behavioral-modification-through-chemistry programs to shivery effect in this spooky semi-found-footage shocker.

Jan 9, 2014

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1392548-Banshee_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Banshee Chapter opens with real documentary footage pertaining to the CIA's notorious Cold War-era MKUltra experiments with psychedelic drugs and contemporary faux-documentary footage of earnest post-graduate James Hirsch (Michael McMillian of HBO's “True Blood”), who disappeared while writing a book on MKUltra casualties. He was especially interested in subjects dosed with mind-scrambling drugs like DMT-19 who reported mysterious encounters with disturbing "entities" that seemed to originate in another dimension; they were to have been the subject of the book's "Banshee Chapter."
 
The police suspected Hirsch's friend and cameraman, Renny (Alex Gianopoulos), but when Renny vanished a few days later, the case went cold. Only Hirsch's college friend Anne Roland (Katia Winter of TV's “Sleepy Hollow”), now a reporter for the website Rising Journal, cares enough to launch a real investigation, and it takes her down one scary rabbit hole that leads to long-buried secrets, lies and prickly, Hunter Thompson-esque counterculture novelist Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine), a ’70s casualty who may not be as crazy as he appears.
 
Starting with Ringu and The Blair Witch Project and a trippy Ken Kesey overlay, Banshee Chapter rolls together its disparate influences into one big ball of weirdness, from shortwave "number stations" broadcasting freaky messages—tinkly music-box tunes, electronically altered voices droning numbers and disconnected words in multiple languages—into America's vast desert wastelands to H.P. Lovecraft's eerily prescient short story “From Beyond,” about a scientist whose pineal-gland experiments open a gateway between our world and an alternate reality filled with restless monsters looking to relocate.
 
Erickson elicits strong performances from his largely unfamiliar cast, while Levine shines as the sly, paranoid, damaged but defiantly resilient Blackburn, whose motto appears to be “Don't let the bastards get you down, and if they do, take down as many as possible with you.” Various eerie locations, including Hirsch's isolated cabin; empty, poorly lit two-lane highways; and a huge, half-completed McMansion complex in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada add to the carefully calculated suspense—so many places for something to come out of.
 
Ultimately, Banshee Chapter isn't a game-changer, but it's a tight, neatly constructed little shocker that delivers what it promises—would that many bigger films could say the same.


Film Review: Banshee Chapter

First-time director/co-writer Blair Erickson's Blair Witch-style mind-freak successfully mines the history of U.S. government behavioral-modification-through-chemistry programs to shivery effect in this spooky semi-found-footage shocker.

Jan 9, 2014

-By Maitland McDonagh


filmjournal/photos/stylus/1392548-Banshee_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Banshee Chapter opens with real documentary footage pertaining to the CIA's notorious Cold War-era MKUltra experiments with psychedelic drugs and contemporary faux-documentary footage of earnest post-graduate James Hirsch (Michael McMillian of HBO's “True Blood”), who disappeared while writing a book on MKUltra casualties. He was especially interested in subjects dosed with mind-scrambling drugs like DMT-19 who reported mysterious encounters with disturbing "entities" that seemed to originate in another dimension; they were to have been the subject of the book's "Banshee Chapter."
 
The police suspected Hirsch's friend and cameraman, Renny (Alex Gianopoulos), but when Renny vanished a few days later, the case went cold. Only Hirsch's college friend Anne Roland (Katia Winter of TV's “Sleepy Hollow”), now a reporter for the website Rising Journal, cares enough to launch a real investigation, and it takes her down one scary rabbit hole that leads to long-buried secrets, lies and prickly, Hunter Thompson-esque counterculture novelist Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine), a ’70s casualty who may not be as crazy as he appears.
 
Starting with Ringu and The Blair Witch Project and a trippy Ken Kesey overlay, Banshee Chapter rolls together its disparate influences into one big ball of weirdness, from shortwave "number stations" broadcasting freaky messages—tinkly music-box tunes, electronically altered voices droning numbers and disconnected words in multiple languages—into America's vast desert wastelands to H.P. Lovecraft's eerily prescient short story “From Beyond,” about a scientist whose pineal-gland experiments open a gateway between our world and an alternate reality filled with restless monsters looking to relocate.
 
Erickson elicits strong performances from his largely unfamiliar cast, while Levine shines as the sly, paranoid, damaged but defiantly resilient Blackburn, whose motto appears to be “Don't let the bastards get you down, and if they do, take down as many as possible with you.” Various eerie locations, including Hirsch's isolated cabin; empty, poorly lit two-lane highways; and a huge, half-completed McMansion complex in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada add to the carefully calculated suspense—so many places for something to come out of.
 
Ultimately, Banshee Chapter isn't a game-changer, but it's a tight, neatly constructed little shocker that delivers what it promises—would that many bigger films could say the same.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

War Story
Film Review: War Story

Infuriatingly slow, enervating and basically empty contemplation of war's impact, and a waste of the formidable talent of a gallant Catherine Keener. More »

Happy Christmas
Film Review: Happy Christmas

Joe Swanberg's latest feature is a collection of strong individual scenes and performances that never quite finds its statement of purpose. More »

Very Good Girls
Film Review: Very Good Girls

More of a meandering, misguided path than a road to hell, Naomi Foner’s directing debut, starring Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen as 18-year-old BFFs, is similarly filled with good intentions. More »

The Kill Team
Film Review: The Kill Team

Marine Adam Winfield goes on trial in a case in which U.S. soldiers murdered innocent Afghanis. Strong subject marred by poor narrative choices. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Get On Up
Film Review: Get On Up

Chadwick Boseman is sensational in this multi-faceted portrait of troubled, pioneering soul-music giant James Brown. More »

Guardians of the Galaxy review
Film Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

With Marvel’s backing, cult filmmaker James Gunn blasts off for the stars and takes audiences along for a wild, funny ride. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here