Review: The Banshee Chapter is a Lovecraftian Mess

The Banshee Chapter Reviewreview score 3How far would you be willing to go to find a missing friend? What would you be willing to do if it meant getting answers? These are the decisions faced by writer Anne Roland (Katia Winter) when her friend James (Michael McMillian) disappears in Blair Erickson’s take on Lovecraft, The Banshee Chapter.

The film opens with a series of actual broadcast denouncing government experiments. At the center of the controversy is a drug that stimulates the Pineal Gland. James Hirsch, a writer, gets a hold of the principal drug used in these experiments and takes it. What happens? He disappears. His friend and occasional partner, Anne, goes in search of him only to track down the drug itself. She also learns that the drug is an extract from the Pineal Gland. What’s this drug actually do? Let’s just say that it opens doors that can’t be shut.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Banshee Chapter is based on the premise of H.P. Lovecraft’s "From Beyond." It’s a revisionist take of course where the characters are familiar with Lovecraft and the story. The problem is that, like many retellings in this day and age, it’s already been done better.

Let me stress that this is not the fault of the two leads, Katia Winter and Ted Levine. Katia, of FOX’s Sleepy Hollow has an interesting enough presence and believable delivery. She is just not given much to work with. Her journey is really just a series of dark rooms and unanswered questions. The search for James is also problematic because we simply don’t care about him. Levine is of course a great actor and brings that great “I’m smarter than you and I know it” world-weary attitude once again and it serves him well. He fairs better of the two, but this is the nature of the beast anyway. We all know that the “Hero” has less room to play in and the sidekick can chew scenery till days end. Hell, when you’re playing a Hunter S. Thompson like character, you are almost guaranteed to own the film. That’s a given. I just wanted to care more about Anne’s quest than I ultimately did.

So often are stories remade or reimagined these days that it’s hard to keep them straight. Stories are told and retold and you would think that time and technology would make them better, at least visually. Sadly, this is not the case. Past aesthetics usually reign supreme and modern film makers usually don’t have the resources to top them.

The film falls flat at many key scenes but not because of the acting or the direction. The bane in this film's side is often the script and/or the production design. I often say that the weakness of many films these days lie in the lack of interesting or memorable dialogue. The characters aren’t fleshed out enough for us to want to take the journey with them. In the end, Banshee Chapter is just a series of dark scenes and pseudo psycho-babble with allusions to greater ideas…and films.


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