The Banshee Chapter is a micro-budget independent film that despite it’s shortcomings manages to be unsettling, thought-provoking, and ultimately a frightening experience.
The first thing to know is while the core of the film is fictional, some of the events featured are bizarre and true. The first few minutes have actual media clips of President Clinton apologizing to the victims of secret government medical experiments. Then there’s references to “numbers stations,” mysterious shortwave radio broadcasts typically featuring female or children’s voices in a variety of languages reciting words, letters or songs. The sources of these strange broadcasts are still unknown but have been attributed to possible espionage... or perhaps otherworldly transmissions.
The movie stars Katia Winter (from Fox’s Sleepy Hollow) whose boyfriend acquires and takes the hallucinogenic drug (used in those secret medical experiments) and mysteriously disappears. She’s determined to find out what happened to him, traces the origin of the drug, and down the rabbit hole she goes.
The dread builds steadily, and every passing episode increases the eerie quotient in this stylish debut from writer/director Blair Erickson. However, the performances are uneven, the story is underdeveloped and slightly disjointed, and the characters don't fully develop – all symptoms of a writer directing his own work and lacking a clearer, external perspective. Nonetheless for independent cinema it is surprisingly polished (and apparently shot in 3D although the 3D version wasn't released on home video).
The last and most fascinating thing to know about this movie is that it’s a loose adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's “From Beyond”. Fans of Lovecraft may know how difficult it is to faithfully adapt his vivid and grandiose vision to the screen but one has to applaud Erickson for trying. If one is going to adapt Lovecraft, this is the way to do it. Rather than attempting to write a script that features story scene-by-scene, Erickson instead injected Lovecraft's DNA into an original story and the effect is exactly what you'd want: creepy glimpses into another world.
This is a lot of lofty ambitions for a debut film, and while the film isn't perfect, the results are original, chilling, and worth a look for fans of the paranormal.