The Banishing (2021) – Movie Review

Last Updated on October 19, 2021

PLOT: A reverend and his family move into a sprawling estate adjacent to his new church. What they don’t know is that this newly vacant rectory has a history of torture and good old-fashioned murder.

LOWDOWN: The Banishing (WATCH IT HERE) is directed by the excellent and severely underrated Christopher Smith. Triangle, Creep, and Black Death don’t get enough street cred for how damn great they are, and Smith is always precise and consistent in his output of modern horror. For The Banishing, he takes on the haunted-house subgenre in a period piece that deals with the occult, ghosts, and the looming threat of World War II. Not bringing much new to the table in terms of plot, as this doesn’t stray too far away from the tried-and-true haunted victorian mansion stories we’ve seen before, The Banishing brings its A-game with a sense of class and polish set around some fantastic actors.

Linus (John Heffernan), along with his new wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and stepdaughter Adelaide (Anya McKenna-Bruce), have been given a lottery ticket into a better life. In a time of economic failings, they have been given a chance to live like royalty, with no strings attached. Except that Marianne sees strange and violent events that haven’t actually happened while her daughter is talking with some invisible friends and playing with dolls that look like hooded cult members. Maybe there is a catch? Marianne is the first to notice the odd occurrences, and with a hidden backstory filled a bit of tragedy, she’s not quite sure how to navigate the clusterf*ck that is a haunted mansion while her God-fearing husband wants to hear none of it.

Linus is a meek man loyal to his church and religion; he constantly brushes off his wife’s advancements and lets his sexual frustration turn into anger. His only knowledge of the house’s previous occupants is that they “moved to the colonies,” which is a bit of a stretch since they were actually murdered in the upstairs bedroom. The Banishing is a ghost story that is directly tied to the church and the power it holds. Linus is a pushover who’s along for the ride, while his powerful boss, Bishop Malachi, maybe more of a threat than the ghosts themselves. Malachi (John Lynch) knows the mansion’s history and will do what’s necessary to keep things quiet. Lynch owns it as the mob-like Bishop. He threatens locals, gives sinister monologues, and even has a few of his cronies smack around the drunkard and occultist researcher Harry Reed (Sean Harris).

What works in The Banishing are the characters and how they intertwine with each other. Harris’s Harry Reed steals the show as a drunk, depressed, and eccentric man who is all too familiar with the mansion and its history. Though I’d argue he doesn’t get enough screen time with his incredible performance, he does play a more prominent role than I initially thought. Jessica Brown leads this movie with ease and does so much with the slightest expression. Some folks “have it,” and Brown is one of them. Even when things play it safe and tread over familiar ground, she can still stir up the right emotion at the right time.

My biggest issue is that there isn’t anything here we haven’t seen before. The Nazi-infused setting is attractive yet isn’t really used. The horror looks slick, and Christopher Smith is talented enough to make almost anything work, but rarely did I feel a sense of uneasiness or dread. The intensity of Bishop Malachi or Harry Reed’s strangeness caught my attention more than the scares did. This doesn’t kill the movie in any way, but it hampers the main draw.

GORE: No gore or blood here. The Banishing aims for thrills more than painting the house red.

BOTTOM LINE: The Banishing is a solid thriller that’s shot beautifully and amazingly acted. There is a good amount of meat to the story, yet we don’t quite get to dig into it as much as we should. With many entries in the haunted house subgenre, this can’t really hold up to modern classics like The Haunting of Hill House but offers enough to keep itself afloat. Though not a perfect movie, The Banishing is a good time filled with some excellent performances that you shouldn’t overlook.

The Banishing will stream exclusively to Shudder on April 15th, 2021.




Source: Arrow in the Head

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