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I just finished watching this film at the After Dark Film Festival in
I was impressed. It has a genuinely creepy atmosphere and well-earned jump scares that had me leaping out of my seat a few times.
The film is an effective mix of traditional filmmaking,'found footage', and even actual documentary footage and news reels. This melding of fiction with 'faux-real' footage and factual footage was perfect given the subject matter (which revolves around the real-life MKUltra 'mind control experiments' conducted by the CIA during the Cold War). The film also cleverly mixes in the genuinely creepy lore of shortwave 'numbers stations', resulting in a calling card for the film's villain which is flat-out *beep* scary.
Speaking of the 'villain', I don't want to give away too much, but I wanted to congratulate the director for creating a 'Big Bad' that is unnervingly ambiguous and 'unknowable', both in terms of motivation and appearance.
The performances are solid, and I particularly enjoyed the Hunter S. Thompson-esque character for the humour he brought to the proceedings.
Tonally, this movie reminded me of the Mothman Prophecies and a lot of the better 'Creepypasta' stories from the internet. I give this a big thumbs up :)
Just watched this and was pleasantly surprised. Especially after seeing
the IMDb page and checking out the HORRIBLE poster and low rating.
Essentially a tale about government chemical mind control experiments, with a mix of a scary shortwave radio transmission and some super cool Lovecraftian elements a la From Beyond, it is done in a scary manner, with a mix of found footage, real and faked news clips, and sometimes just plain old standard filmed storytelling.
The flashlight, a common horror cliché, is also used to great effect here. I can see some people not liking this one and it being a polarizing movie but I enjoyed it very much. It also boasts a great performance by Ted Levine, who freaked us out as Rusty Nail in "Joyride." This is the first scary movie I've seen in a while. The last thing I can say is it's a mix of originality, cliché, and "borrowing", but what movie today isn't?
I'm not a fan of jump scares. I think they're cheap, sometimes
manipulative, and they rarely imbue dread. Rather, they can ruin a
movie's atmosphere if used incorrectly. Having said that, The Banshee
Chapter has the best use of jump scares I've seen in a long, long time.
You can sense them coming from a mile away, yet they can still make you
crap your pants. I credit this to the director who clearly has a grasp
on how to utilize atmosphere and build-ups effectively. These scares
don't seem cheap; well, some of them do, but the tone is set by the
creepy music, the static, and the robotic voices which really holds the
movie together. And the imagery itself is creepy. If I saw one of those
things near me, I would freak the f*** out too.
Now, you probably noticed by now that I haven't even hinted at a narrative in this movie, and that's because it's so flimsy it's hardly worth mentioning. It's basically about MK Ultra and the government testing drugs on people, then things start to go horribly wrong. The premise is good, but the actual story - the execution - is hollow and lazy. I didn't care what has happening half the time. I was too busy peeking through my eyes (kidding, but not really) waiting for the damn thing to come out from somewhere. Almost every scene is crafted this way - light on substance, heavy on scares.
Thankfully, horror is about the scares so I have to give The Banshee Chapter credit. Even though it stands for everything I hate in horror movies, this one actually gets it right, and for that alone, bravo.
I really wanted to like this film. But there was so many things being thrown in the mix it's was just too much to take. Number stations, mk ultra, drugs, government conspiracies, and a barrage of scenes which never really give the viewer time to build up to a feeling of dread. They're just delivered to you in a quick fire fashion and even the "face at the window" shots are so quick you can't define them sometimes. I have to say I liked the Ted Levine character Blackburn as he played it with gusto right to the end. But apart from the outlandish story there are many plot holes and the ending just wasn't that satisfying for me. Still, I respect any new director trying something a little different.
Journalist Anne Roland explores the disturbing links behind her
friend's sudden disappearance, an ominous government research chemical,
and a disturbing radio broadcast of unknown origin.
This film has some good things going for it. With using MK-ULTRA as the background, they are able to blend fact and fiction, and certainly horror stories resulting from government experiments exist. This was a clever idea, even if not always done to its full potential.
There is also a very clear reference to Hunter S. Thompson, and that will make lots of people smile. Perhaps actually making the character Thompson and having this re-imagined as a bizarre pseudo-historical film might have helped.
I'd never heard of this film, (and only recognised two of the cast) but
found it while channel hopping last night.
The blurb sounded promising so I thought I'd give it a go and I was glad I did.
The film felt very "indie", a simple (if somewhat odd) idea nicely executed. Other reviews have described it as "Lovecraftian", and that description works well (there is even mention of Lovecraft at one point).
The mood is one of hidden lurking menace, never fully seen, only glimpsed. There were several excellent "jump out of your seat" scares, but even those were tastefully done. The acting is low key and the roles well cast.
I'm not going to say much more as I'd love people to discover this underrated little gem for themselves.
"The Banshee Chapter" is a blend of found footage, and tradition
filming styles that create a smooth, creepy visual horror story. The
film is directed by Blair Erickson and stars Katia Winter, Ted Levine,
Michael McMillian, Jenny Gabrielle, William Sterchi, Alex Gianopoulos
in mad science tale that is part urban legend, part Lovecraftian,
centering around a journalist seeking answers to the disappearance of
her college friend after an experiment goes terribly wrong.
The story in "The Banshee Chapter" creates an almost instantly captivating tale around urban legends that arose after it was made public of the black ops experiments the Government implemented on citizens during the 60's and 70's using LSD. That is a conspiracy lore ideology that I find myself trolling the internet reading. This element weaves eerily effortlessly into the Lovecraft world of horror, particularly the story surrounding the scientist that creates an antenna that becomes a gateway between worlds ultimately allowing both sides to move between. "The Banshee Chapter" pushes out a dark, nightmare that stays serious, flows nicely, and maintains a chilling atmosphere from start to finish without becoming boring.
The acting in this film is pretty stellar, not too melodramatic or forced but so polished that it just seems over-rehearsed. The transitions between the found footage scenes and the standard third person point-of-view are balanced and move smoothly without the effects being made into some big production. By which I mean the scenes move in and out without seeming pointless or just "stuck in" the film with no purpose other than to cash in on the "footage" craze. "The Banshee Chapter" takes the two styles and mixes them with ease which makes the film suspenseful and chilling. The direction and character development felt authentic and created an actual connection between me and the story, something that often times falls to the wayside in "found footage" driven films.
The special effects and soundtrack in "The Banshee Chapter" both work nicely in creating a chilling, and entertaining atmosphere with moments that are gripping, and intense while feeling creepy as heck. The special effects are the usual gimmicks and tricks to create shock moments and suspense but the director maintains control of the elements so nothing looks cheap or pointless, or more importantly lacking in fright. I jumped several times while watching this movie. The soundtrack and sound effects create an overture to the creepy atmosphere that the acting and story develops, really pulling me into the complete story. Mostly instrumental with some vocal effects, the soundtrack is both timeless and powerful. "The Banshee Chapter" is a fun, fright-filled, horror story that I found to be true to the genre without seeming hokey.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is like a freshman in college: tons of awesome ideas and
potential, but no clue what it wants to be when it grows up. Its a
jumbled mess of cinematic styles, real life conspiracy theories and pop
culture icons, like a B-movie equivalent of an X-Files knock off that
tried to string all of these half cooked ideas together with thin
exposition and a wanna-be M Knight Shamalaan ending.
The film starts itself as a found footage style horror film, more in the vein of the cryptic scenes from the Ring than in a linear story sort of fashion. the viewer does get the set up, however: DMT-19, this special concoction born of MKUltra, has been obtained by James, a documentary film maker who intends to take the drug and... I don't know... figure out the secret of MKUltra, I guess. A few jumbled cut scenes and a shoehorned jump scare later, we learn he disappears. The viewer is introduced to Anne (Katia Winter), the one time Friend-Zone trapping interest of James, who goes on an investigative journalistic journey to find out what happened to her college friend. She enlists the help of Thomas Blackburn (who is a thinly veiled caricature of Hunter Thompson, played by Ted Levine) the man who provided the DMT-19 to James, the missing friend.
the cinematography jumps around in "found footage" style, "shot like it should be found footage but the camera man probably just is mildly drunk or has Parkinsons", "poorly lit" and "normal". The plot tries to slide in references to an H.P. Lovecraft story as the explanation of the "they" who are coming to get "them", as told to us in Hunter S. Levine exposition. Really though, it's the slowest and worst way to abduct people and transport across dimensions for (what I can only imagine is) an invasion. I'd expect better from Lovecraft's "Old Ones".
What This Film Did Well:
The atmosphere in a few of the scenes lent itself to genuine tension and creepiness. Ted Levine still did a good job with a crappy, K-Mart model Hunter Thompson Character. the Creep Factor of the Number Station transmissions (Google The Conet Project)
What This Film Failed In Doing Well:
Characterization. Motivation. Cinematographic style consistency. Any sort of horror other than lame jump scares. A premise that made sense.
Meh. the synopsis sounded cool, but it failed to deliver on anything more than a low budget, jump-scare attempt at horror with a vague knowledge of real-world phenomena, conspiracy theories, Lovecraft and Hunter Thompson. Watch it if you have nothing better to do, and by nothing better, I mean you are bed ridden and the remote is too far away to change the channel.
!!!BIG SPOILER BELOW!!!
OK, so the end of this movie shows us that Blackburn was one of the MKUltra guinea pigs who was electro-shocked into retrograde amnesia. It is further inferred since Anne did not take the substance, but was touched by Blackburn, that she is now a potential target by the Old Ones, just as James' partner was touched by James and also became a target, even though he did not take the drug. So if everyone Blackburn touched became a target, that means that these Old Ones have been snatching people since the 1960s and the drug itself was a means of trans-dimensional body snatching and those who were the Snatched murdered anyone they came in physical contact with... or made them a conduit for the Old Ones. If you don't follow, don't worry... it doesn't make sense.
Also, the subjects taking the DMT were mumbling the chemical composition of the DMT-19, passed as a message from the Old Ones so that the scientists could make this new compound and the Old Ones could use it as a means of conveyance to our dimension. So what attacked the subject who was only on DMT and not the DMT-19, a formula that had not yet been created?
Yet again ALSO, why did Anne not know what the chair in the experiment chamber was used for when Hunter... err... Thomas asked her about it? She saw the MKUltra video files. It literally showed her exactly what that chair was used for.
and still more ALSO, who put the Old One in the Iron Lung? and how did it build a radio transmitter from within the Iron Lung to act as a catalyst with the spook music? did people have to hear the spook music to get Snatched? and if that whole setup was the way the old ones Snatched people, the combination of the DMT-19 and the spook music, once Anne destroyed what I assume was the original Old One and the means of propagating the spook music, how did it project the spook music after it was destroyed?
You know what? Whatever. I'm done. This movie was dumb.
The Banshee Chapter is a decent horror flick with a lot of potential that unfortunately fails to deliver on most counts. The film starts really well, but sadly doesn't manage to keep up with its early promise. It does have a few genuinely nail biting moments in it however, which make it well worth a watch. I would recommend approaching this film in the knowledge that it is a highly flawed yet enjoyable hour and a half, so that you aren't disappointed and can enjoy the film for what it is; A relatively well- made chiller with some very good ideas, executed clumsily. I feel that with a tightening of the plot and a better lead actress, there could have been a really excellent film here. Still, The Banshee Chapter is much better than the majority of horror films out there, and definitely worth viewing at least once if you're in the mood for a fright.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Banshee Chapter plays like a group of lesser film school students
put forward their best effort. This is to say one must park most
expectations at the door not to worry about a bit of cheese here and
some embarrassing moments pushing something that clearly overreaches
any credibility which it certainly would benefit from.
As the film opens there is a montage of interviews with people involved with the real, and absolutely harrowing MK-Ultra experiments. These totally serious newsreels about something definitely factual built up expectations that this movie would quite simply betray. This was a miscue right off the bat and hurts the fictional film that follows as something much closer to real and less (ridiculously silly) paranormal was expected.
There was a silly segment about random electronic numbers just coming in like a radio transmission from a radio station in the ether. Some writer chick is on this stuff because a friend took some of the still available drug concoction from the MK-Ultra crap and died, or went up in smoke or something (I don't know or care). The last straw was at 22-minutes when the writers tried to introduce a character based on Hunter S. Thompson. You can't make silly stuff seem like it has a shred of credibility by bringing a character totally plagiarized. Maybe for some this is watchable, sadly for me is is so bad it isn't even laughable. The estate of Thompson should be contemplating their options as it sullies an image Hunter cultivated to be a certain kind of respectable in all of his anti-establishment glory (i.e. his brand of freedom versus everything).Over and out at 25-minutes. I give it 3 because the story is 0, but the effort deserves at least 2 or 3 and the actors do a respectable job with absolutely terrible characters.
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