Found footage conspiracy horror Banshee Chapter premiered in its 3D form at 2013’s FrightFest and unfortunately my instant reaction was one of uninspired indifference especially compared to the brilliant, innovative and downright terrifying The Conspiracy which also played.
This is a sad fact because first time director Blair Erickson, who also co-wrote the script and story with Daniel J. Healy has some interesting ideas and the plot line which merges H. P. Lovecraft’s From Beyond with the real life hallucinogenic drug tests performed by the USA under the title Project MKUltra is a perfect and provocative pairing.
After her friend films himself taking one of the drugs used in the experiments dimethyltryptamine-19 better known as DMT-19 and then has a horrifying experience and disappears, journalist Anne (Katia Winter from the excellent TV series Sleepy Hollow) decides to look into not only what happened but what the government was doing in their evil experiments.
Learning all sorts of unnerving things, including the fact that everyone who has taken the drug saw the same being dubbed the Banshee, Anne ends up meeting with counter culture writer Thomas Blackburn (Buffalo Bill himself from The Silence of the Lambs Ted Levine) a man who knows a thing or twelve about drugs being that he has taken every pill on the planet.
The mismatch double act set out to find the mysterious origin of a radio broadcast that they hope will lead them to the MKUltra laboratory but what they end up discovering is much more mind blowing than they ever imagined.
As mentioned although Banshee Chapter has a semi-inventive story somehow the film feels like we have seen it all before. Perhaps it’s the somewhat clichéd characters or the done to death found footage format as the cast do a fine job especially Levine who performs the best Hunter S Thompson impression since Johnny Depp, in his role as Blackburn which is obviously based on the crazed author.
Yes its true Erickson delivers plenty of jumps and frights all of which work but they are predominantly of the loud bangs in the dark variety that frankly any humdrum horror director can master and lack the finesse and truly terrifying feeling other films managed to instil in there audiences.
Perhaps it should be mentioned that what annoyed me the most about the film was the 3D which was utterly pointless. 3D can work wonders when used properly in a horror film as in the amazingly entertaining The Final Destination but here the experience was like watching the same movie in the darkened cinema with uncomfortable sun glasses on and just as frustrating.
Interestingly all mention of 3D has disappeared from the press and marketing of the cinema and DVD release which is a good thing so perhaps it could be said that I should revisit this film with fresh de-spectacled eyes however that’s for you to do not me.
If you like found footage and forced frights then this is the movie for you, although see The Conspiracy first, I just hope that Erickson delivers something altogether more innovative and interesting on his next horror after Banshee Chapter or it will be a screaming shame.