Found footage warning! The indie sci-fi/horror film known as Banshee Chapter has been classified as “found footage” and is deemed worthy of this warning because apparently some viewers dislike “found footage” even if it’s used in service of a nifty and novel genre conceit like the one found in Banshee Chapter. In other words, if you’re cool with this type of presentation, you may like the movie. If you don’t, well, then you probably won’t. /warning
It doesn’t hurt that, right off the bat, Banshee Chapter is the sort of story that actually lends itself pretty well to the “faux documentary” style of storytelling. It’s the story of a woman who is documenting the mysterious disappearance of an old friend who (very stupidly) decided to sample a dosage of super-secret government-created mind-control serum — and then vanishes. That leaves Anna (Katia Winter) and a cameraman to dig through all the evidence, some of which is pretty creepy video footage, and that leads to a man who claims to know all about these super-secret government-created mind-control serums — only he’s a nutty Hunter S. Thompson-ish author/recluse who isn’t all that thrilled about being interviewed.
That’s sort of what makes Banshee Chapter work, regardless of how you feel about the found footage stuff: it has a pretty nifty premise to offer, one that’s sort of a slow-burn combination of Lovecraft, The X-Files and The Twilight Zone (a B+ episode if not an A+), and director Blair Erickson does a fine job of striking a firm balance between Anna’s misadventures and the “archival” footage of the evil serum’s influence on numerous unfortunate test subjects. The concepts on hand are compelling enough, there are enough jolts to keep Acts I and II afloat, and then there’s just a nice batch of grim and atmospheric horror once the ending starts cooking.
Bolstered by very strong work from Ms. Winter (if you don’t like this character, the film is sorta sunk from the outset) and some truly enjoyable support from character actor extraordinaire Ted Levine (as the reclusive author turned reluctant sidekick on Anna’s quest for the horrible truth), Banshee Chapter doesn’t actually have anything to do with banshees (sorry, banshee fans) but as a smart, clever, and diverting little mash-up of numerous sci-fi and horror tropes, it’s certainly worth a look.
Scott Weinberg (@scottEweinberg)
Banshee Chapter is available to stream or download here.