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BANSHEE CHAPTER
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Reviewed by: Andre Manseau

Directed by: Blair Erickson

Starring:
Katia Winter
Michael McMillian
Ted Levine

Movie:  
star star star star
Extras:  
star star star star
Overall:  
star star star star
What's it about
A journalist is off looking for an old friend she went to college with. Dude disappeared after getting on some heavy government-issued experimental-type drugs. She teams up with "not Hunter S. Thompson" character Thomas Blackburn Ted Levine to find out the truth about this evil big brother experiment.
Is it good movie?
Part found footage, part faux-documentary of sorts, Banshee Chapter aims its sights on the kind of things the US government used to do to people back in the 60s where they'd cram people full of weird drugs. In the case of this film the MK Ultra project (I loved that game) produced the DMT 19 drug, which gives you enhanced consciousness where you wind up seeing things and beings that you couldn't before..though unfortunately, they can also see you.

So Anne (Katia Winter) find the tape of her friend James (Michael McMillian) hitting up the bright blue drug, which sends her into a desperate search for the truth. A lot of this involves weird number patterns broadcasted over the airwaves of old radios, so she naturally finds wacko conspiracy theorist Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine) and recruits him to help her cause. The use of these numbers stations is actually pretty effective, as they're apparantly believed by conspiracy-minded folks to be something truly sinister (or at the very least signals from spies around the world). This one's reminiscent of something like the Mothman Prophecies, which isn't a bad thing. I won't give away the "main villain" but he's suitably creepy with a cool calling card.

Director Blair Erickson should be commended for making what has turned out to be a beautiful looking film in terms of scenery and atmosphere. So many times, our heroes are trapped in terrifying locales that range from claustrophobic to wide open but all are drenched in dread due to shadows and darkness that result from excellent lighting. This director's got skills. One could argue that there are way too many "jolt" scares that result from quick cuts. If you hate those "Oh Jesus!" moments, avoid this film. A few of them got me pretty good. As a slight criticism, the film seems to sometimes have cameras where there technically couldn't/shouldn't be any (since this is found footage/documentary style stuff, if you keep that in mind sometimes it just doesn't make sense). The blending of the two genre styles doesn't always work and as a result just feels off at times.

In terms of casting, Katia Winter's a nice looking gal who manages to pull off an impressive performance as Anne (though she comes off either really tough, or really naive sometimes). Levine is always a welcome presence and doesn't disappoint with his wonderfully absurd portrayal of a counterculture hero. On top of all that, the two work well together and have an undeniable chemistry, which goes a long way. There's no doubt that at times both characters seem to make some stupid decisions, but it doesn't ruin the film or anything. Also, the whole plot is really quite thin- looking for her friend, discover the theories, "your mind becomes a receiver", that's about it.

There's no doubt that the plot can be somewhat easy to figure out, but I had a really fun time with this flick. I thought it was unquestionably creepy and depending on how you feel about jolt scares, you'll feel the same way. There's a lot of cool stuff with the radio stations too. Plenty of tension, great visuals, likeable leads and decent scares. Fun times!
Video / Audio
Video: 16:9 widescreen, ranging from awful and grainy (on purpose) to murky and dark (on purpose).

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, a well mixed audio track that will serve to scare you as the film really relies on it.
The Extras
What is The Banshee Chapter? is a quick 3 minute clip that gives a bit of background from the director as to the truth behind it. Nothing really interesting here.

Directing Banshee Chapter is another quick 3 minute clip with the cast, producer and director discussing how the style of the film came together. Again, quick and painless for the most part without any true substance.

The History Behind Banshee Chapter, did you know they actually conducted experiments on people? This 2 minute clip talks a little about it, interspersing some of the (sometimes laughable) re-enactment footage from the film with the director talking over it.

Banshee Chapter Shooting in 3D features the cast and director discussing a few of the challenges and advantages of shooting in 3D. Another really brief clip, and I can't imagine this movie looking overly good in 3D (found footage and shaky cam do not make for great 3D).

A trailer is also included.
Last Call
Though it isn't the deepest film out there, I thought Banshee Chapter definitely had some unsettling moments. It moves along briskly enough (though there's an awful lot of convenient circumstances) and packs enough of a punch to make it worthwhile. If nothing else, it'll get you looking into the awful MKUltra project.
ARROW IN THE HEAD'S RATING SYSTEM
star star star star I'D BUTCHER MY FAMILY TO SEE THIS AGAIN
star star star HANG ME BUT I DUG IT A LOT
star star AN OK WAY TO KILL TWO HOURS
star JUST SLING AN ARROW IN MY HEAD AND LET ME DIE IN PEACE

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