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Scream of the Banshee review

REVIEWS - DVD REVIEWS

Hey, lets open that mysterious looking box without thinking about the consequences...

Scream of the Banshee review

Scream of the Banshee is the second of two After Dark ‘Originals' released this summer, the other being the previously reviewed The Task. The difference with this film is that it is quite clearly co-produced by SyFy, which is not necessarily a bad thing - since they know how to make programmes and straight-to-television films look decent.

Going into this film having enjoyed The Task - despite its many, many flaws - I was hoping to get either something similar or, God forbid, a good, well-scripted and produced low-budget horror. What I got, unfortunately, was something similar. It is obviously a television movie (you can tell because the score ends at the same time as the scene...ready for an ad break) which doesn’t automatically make it crap – see Tommy Lee Wallace's novel-adaptation, IT – but throw in the SyFy moniker and the bar suddenly lowers.

Starring a couple of well known faces, Lauren Holly (Jenny Shepard in NCIS) and Lance Henriksen (Bishop in Aliens), Banshee does an okay job of getting the scares in, despite using one of horror’s less frequent ‘monsters’. And so to the plot: when an archaeology professor and two of her students discover a strange box and decide to open it they, unwittingly unleash a banshee that can - and will - kill with its titular piercing scream.

Scream of the Banshee reviewThe film begins implausibly with some Irish Knights Templar capturing a banshee head in a box made from a shield. Right. We are then transported to modern day America where the box now resides in a secret room in the basement of a university. When the professor and her students receive a map highlighting where this room is located they automatically search for it, find it and retrieve the box. The next moment is when I gave up hope for an intelligent horror. Despite being a university professor (i.e. smart and thoughtful), Holly’s character goes right ahead and opens the box without doing any research whatsoever into what it might be. Come on! This is the most basic of plot points, the writer could have at least made this plausible. Once we are in the world of the supernatural I’m willing to believe almost anything, but telling me that a highly qualified intellect - one entrusted with the education and, at this point, lives of her students - would neglect any form of research is just ludicrous.

Anyway, so the three dimwits release the banshee and one by one they are all set upon by this grotesque fairy woman. A poor security guard is the first to die, thus highlighting the fact that the banshee will kill anyone, but next she must kill those who have set her free. Why, I don’t know - no explanation is given as to why she must kill the three people who released her. As the film progresses, our group of researchers begin to realise that their lives are in danger, and thus attempt to figure out how to trap the banshee and end its reign of terror – i.e. find Lance Henriksen and get the answers.

So far, I've been fairly critical of this film, so I'll now attempt a more positive approach to Scream of the Banshee: there are occasional tense moments, scary moments and the odd good effect. A couple of the death scenes, if not particularly original, achieve the desired response; particularly when one girl is hiding in her wardrobe, and witnesses another two characters having sex, only for one of said two to become the very banshee they are running from!

Another interesting addition is the films minimalistic reliance on blood. It's peculiar - especially for an television horror such as this - but the only real instances of blood are disgusting pools of black blood and a scene that rips off A Nightmare on Elm Street. In fact, Banshee does surprisingly well with its scary moments, and only when the effects are poor is it let down on this front (see the ridiculous CGI hand and the unexplainable change in quality of the banshee head).

The dialogue is pretty poor and the acting is generally below television standard - even Holly and Henriksen appear to be phoning it in - but it is adequate enough to lend the ludicrous ending an air of tension. Alas, however, that ending was yet another example of horror writers not knowing what to do with their characters and ideas by the end of the film. It is because of this, and the fact that I didn’t really care for the characters that much, despite being forced to endure a mother/daughter quarrel the entire length of the film, that it falls apart.

This is no classic...but at the same times it's also not a stinker. Just like with The Task, if you are looking to pass an hour and a half one evening, then this  you could choose supposed horror films with far less scary moments.

2 stars

Director: Steven C. Miller
DVD Release Date: 25th July 2011
Running Time:  94 mins
Certificate: 15

Starring: Lauren Holly, Lance Henriksen, Todd Haberkorn, Monica Acosta, Marcelle Baer


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