Ok, so whilst I didn’t think that ‘The Blair Witch’ was the genre changing movie it has the reputation for, nor in fact did I find it that scary (even back in the day), there is one thing it did do really well, and that was to craft a story which blended the supernatural with the conceivable. Earlier in the year BTG were privileged to watch another movie ‘The Conspiracy’ which managed to blend fiction and fact so well you would struggle to tell the difference. I would describe the ‘Banshee Chapter’ as an amalgamation of both of these elements, plus one additional element which makes this movie a real gem, its shit scary.
The oddly titled ‘Banshee Chapter’ begins in the style of a mockumentary about an experimental drug which allows the recipients to use portions of their brains which would naturally be inaccessible. By extending the brains perception the ‘patients’ would be able to see things beyond the realms of reality, and as is the case with all confidential CIA experiments, it would give the US the edge over their enemies. Hoping to uncover the conspiracy, an activist student takes the drug to document its effect, hoping to expose its dangers to the public. The experiment takes an unexpected turn for the horrifying worst, he goes missing, and an old friend goes on the hunt for him and uncovers a lot more than she bargains for.
The concept of the movie is exploited to its maximum, and with excellent results. Shifting between perspectives and mediums the film boasts a wide array of scenarios from genuine stock footage interviews edited to fit the movies context, to security cam recordings of the faux experiments, to standard film making. The movie gives the impression of a level of production which would have far surpassed its budget. The characters are an eclectic bunch, with the supporting cast outshining the leading ladies performance giving the movie the gratefully received comic relief. The locations used are creative, but in keeping with the themes, and although the movie is shot mostly in the traditional format, the camera work reflects the best of both the POV and third person shooting being claustrophobic and intimate, even in the outdoor environments.
Whilst the story can be praised for its diversity, it is perhaps a little too ambitious at times and in parts requires the audience to give it pardon for some rather convoluted or tenuous plot progression - this I would say is my only criticism of an otherwise outstanding movie.
Where this movie really gets marks is through its atmosphere and scares. It’s difficult to say quite why this movie hits the marks here; after all it would be lying to say it treads any new territory, however, as with most successful chillers, the set pieces just work. Whether it be from audio queues - in this case from poorly tuned radios - visual cues - some fairly horrific facial distortions, or utilising the primal fear of the dark, this movie will have you wound up so tight it will make your balls ache by the end. Every scare is preceded by a set piece of almost unbearable tension, and whilst the scares are telegraphed a mile off, they get you time and time again, with such diversity that you can never truly predict what is coming. This movie is a gem for that reason. Naturally its lights off and sound up full for full effect, and there is no particular flair so don’t expect anything too avant-garde, just be prepared for a sensation that you might very well be experiencing a heart attack.
Overall, get on amazon, buy the DVD and be prepared. You will be watching one of those movies you will watch - shit yourself - then invite your mates round and see the look on their faces too. We enjoyed it a lot!