Toronto After Dark 2013 Review: Banshee Chapter

For about five minutes, Banshee Chapter feels like it could be a good creep out. We’re introduced to James (Michael McMillian), a struggling novelist who makes a side hobby out of researching the MKUltra experiments from the ‘50s and ‘60s, in which unwitting American citizens were submitted to CIA experiments where they were given hallucinogenic drugs so that scientists could study mind control. Managing to obtain a rare form of the drug used in the experiments, James ingests it, hoping to gain a better knowledge of what the patients went through. Let’s just say that things do not go well for James.

Then the movie really starts. James has disappeared, so his closest friend Anna (Katia Winter), who hilariously friend-zones James in a brief flashback by rejecting his drunken kiss, investigates what happens to him. Unfortunately for us, the investigation largely consists of Anna playing peek-a-boo in dark hallways and rooms with creatures that pop out accompanied by a loud sound. That’s really the only source of horror that first-time director Blair Erickson seems interested in generating. He completely forgoes the intrigue of the central premise in favour of cheap scares.

The film is also confused about its own structure. A little bit of the movie is found-footage, but the rest is shot handheld in such an irritating way that it seems like the whole thing was originally conceived as found-footage and then changed last minute. There’s no visual logic to anything you see and the shot composition is terrible.

Winter is laughably bad in the lead and for some minor star power Ted Levine is thrown into the mix as an alcoholic cult novelist whom Anna teams up with. It’s hard to remember that this was the man that once played Buffalo Bill though, when he spends the entirety of his scenes looking constipated.

Is Banshee Chapter essential Toronto After Dark viewing?

If you are afraid of the dark, and therefore scared by that alone, then you’ll want to see the film. Otherwise, feel free avoid at all costs, unless you like looking at dark rooms and hallways (seriously, it’s like two-thirds of the movie).

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