Saturday, 8 March 2014

THE BANSHEE CHAPTER - DVD Review By Greg Klymkiw - Prepare to crap your pants when you see this movie!

THE BANSHEE CHAPTER is now available on DVD from levelFILM and guess what? I have finally succumbed to running movie giveaways on my site. Thanks to the fine folks at District PR, someone finally offered a title I not only love, but feel strongly enough about running a giveaway contest here at The Film Corner. THE FULL DETAILS on the contest are below. Hint: You'll need to actually read the review and do some work to win, but it'll be worth your while if you do. The DVD itself is a gorgeous transfer of a super-creepy, crap-your-pants sci-fi-horror-film and having just watched the DVD, I can declare unequivocally that the movie held up magnificently on a second viewing. I enjoyed it so much, I'll definitely partake of subsequent viewings.

THE BANSHEE CHAPTER won Film Corner accolades of the highest order. It was one of my TOP PICKS at Adam Lopez's 2013 Toronto After Dark Film Festival and also secured a spot on the Film Corner's TEN BEST HORROR FILMS OF 2013 list.

Without further delay, here's the review, and don't forget to play the skill-testing Trivia Challenge down below to WIN you very own FREE DVD copy of THE BANSHEE CHAPTER.


A journalist (Katia Winter) searches for an old college chum (Michael McMillian) who disappears after experimenting with the same mind altering drugs actually used in secret experiments conducted by the American government during the 50s and 60s. She teams up with an irascible alcoholic druggie (Ted Levine) who is modelled - not at all loosely - upon the late "Fear and Loathing" author Hunter S. Thompson. What they discover is far more horrifying than anything, anyone could ever possibly imagine.
Babe-o-licious star Katia Winter displays
her exquisitely large mouth
designed especially for
The Banshee Chapter (2013)
Dir. Blair Erickson ***1/2
Starring: Katia Winter, Ted Levine

Review By Greg Klymkiw

On a level of pure visceral horror, The Banshee Chapter could be the most terrifying movie of the past decade. This relentlessly intense first feature by writer-director Blair Erickson creeps about with a slow burn, mounting steadily with each passing scene until it begins tossing the tried and true shock cuts when you least expect them. After each and every wham-bam of a cinematic sledge hammer to the face, I found myself literally clutching my chest, gasping for breath and croaking out, repeatedly: "Jesus Christ!" There's absolutely no denying the sheer force and directorial skill on display, however, the shocks are earned by an utterly horrific backdrop.

One of the scariest elements in the movie is the use of "numbers stations" within the context of some supremely creepy story beats. Numbers stations are well known to shortwave enthusiasts as the ultra-ominous broadcasts of code-like messages using a combination of spoken numbers and gibberish - usually uttered by disembodied voices of mostly women or even more hair-raisingly, children. Often assumed to be coded signals from various nations' espionage agencies, conspiracy theorists believe that many of them go well beyond the purview of mere government code and perhaps represent something even more insidious. Given that The Banshee Chapter goes out of its way - not only to scare the crap out of us, but to give us an acute case of the willies, it's safe to say we're treated to some of the most viciously vulpine assaults upon our collective psyches.

Katia Winter discovers something that makes her happy she's wearing "DEPENDS"
There's no two ways about this film's effectiveness as a shocker and that it's also blessed with a phenomenal, delightful and delectably over-the-top rendering of Hunter S. Thompson (let's not kid ourselves) by the legendary Ted (Silence of the Lambs' "Buffalo Bill") Levine. It's also a blessing that we get the super-hot babe Katia Winter delivering a more-than-credible performance as an online journalist who is driven, for once, not so much for the story, but to get at the truth behind the disappearance of a friend, but to also confirm and confront a nagging feeling that her feelings for her pal involve those of unrequited love.

The blasts of radio frequencies, the use of real stock footage and recreated "stick footage" and yes, all the diarrhea-inducing shock cuts combine beautifully to throw us aboard a roller coaster ride of terror we are often begging to be let off of. Everything that contributes to the movie's success as a pure horror film of the highest order are indeed present.

I think it's also important to note that the movie has more shock-cut scares per capita than anything released in years. Some critics might make the mistake of crapping on these as "cheap" scare tactics, but they can just shove their collective heads and snobby noses back up their respective assholes as far as I'm concerned. There's nothing "cheap" about this tactic. In fact, it was a stylistic tool invented by one of the greatest pioneers of horror in cinema history, the legendary chief of the genre division at the old studio R.K.O. Pictures.

The first time this sort of scare ever occurred was in 1942's The Cat People, that wonderful collaboration twixt Lewton, Jacques Tourneur and DeWitt Bodeen. When the shock came in that film, audiences all over the world filled their drawers. Lewton repeated the shock throughout several of his classic films and there was nothing cheap about it because it not only scared people, but was rooted within the whole notion of scaring people with the unknown, the dark and shadows and was also a natural tool within the storytelling itself. (The shock comes during the "walk in the park" sequence and what causes us to jump is what directors and crew - for decades afterwards - would refer to as "The Bus" whenever shots were being set up for eventual use in shock cut sequences. See the movie - most of you probably haven't - and you'll see why all the stalwart old crew hacks called these scenes "The Bus".)

The only time the scare is "cheap" is when there's nothing else in the picture. This is hardly the case with The Banshee Chapter since it pretty much never relies on overt violence or bloodletting, but comes from elements that are not only unique to the narrative, but are perfectly in keeping with the sense of pure paranoia that infuses Erickson's fine picture.

This, I think, however, is why it's a bit disappointing that the consistency in terms of visual storytelling seems somewhat arbitrary. We never are sure what perspective Erickson favours. At times, we feel like we're following a documentary film made by our leading lady, at other times, it feels like someone else's documentary, while yet again, the movie engages in the tropes of "found footage".

Do you really want to know what's being extracted here
and why
and how
it will be used?
Yeah, I thought not.
This lack of consistency might well have been an intentional attempt to always be shifting the perspective, but it's an experiment that usually doesn't pay off successfully because it seldom feels right. Whenever the question of what we're watching crosses our collective minds, we're yanked out of the forward trajectory and forced to regroup. Not that the intent is a bad one - it just doesn't always work and that's a bit of a shame. In retrospect, I have to sadly, if not grudgingly admit that this experiment and/or just plain inconsistent mise-en-scene is what keeps the movie from creeping into what could have been the territory of a pure horror classic. In spite of this, though, the scares are there - they're brutal as all get out - and I have no doubt Erickson will continue to deliver goods of an ever-higher artistic achievement. These are serious quibbles, but they don't take away my faith in his talent or the ultimate quality of the film (and my highest recommendation).

Most importantly, none of this changes the fact that I soiled a pair of pants and boxers that needed to go straight into the laundry after I saw The Banshee Chapter. Next year, I think I might need to attend the Toronto After Dark Film Festival adorned with some "Depends" - kind of like those pathetic gamblers at the casinos.

Hell, maybe distributor levelFILM and/or publicity firm District PR should cut a promotional tie-in with the Depend® brand. I give this idea to both entities - FREE OF CHARGE. Use it!

"The Banshee Chapter" was an Official Selection of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival 2013 and now available on DVD via "levelFILM".


COURTESY OF: levelFilm, District PR and yours truly at The Film Corner. Here's what you need to do. Each day, for five days, I will add one Trivia Challenge Question related to the film being reviewed. At the end of five days, email all your answers with "BANSHEE" in the subject heading to klymkiwfilmcorner[at]yahoo[dot]ca. The first person to get all five questions right, will win this DVD.

And now, here's Question Number 1:

I refer to the historic innovator of the shock-cut in horror movies by name in the review, but I only refer to this individual by a last name. What is the first and last name of this brilliant head of RKO's horror division?

And now, here's Question #2:

So, you've answered Question 1 and identified the individual who innovated the shock-cut in horror movies and was the head of RKO's horror division. What famous multi-Academy-Award-winning producer did this person mentor and toil under for many years as a script editor, ghost writer, creative consultant and general assistant?

And now, here's Question #3:

Okay, so now you've answered Questions 1 and 2. You now know the name of the man who innovated the horror movie shock-cut we know and love and you've identified the name of the ridiculously famous and brilliant producer our man worked for (before becoming head of RKO's horror division), but now I'm going to really make you work. When our man worked for this famous producer, he was ordered to write up a few scenes depicting the suffering of wounded soldiers. Our man was so angry at the famous producer, he intentionally wrote (uncredited, of course) a scene that was essentially one long shot that was so huge, so expansive, so utterly un-doable and one that would have cost the entire sum of one low budget feature at the time. Our man knew for sure the scene would never be shot. The famous producer, however, was insane and LOVED the idea so much that he DID shoot it and it became one of the most famous shots in movie history. What was the name of this ultra-expensive, wildly popular epic feature that is still the biggest grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation, of course)?

And now, here's Question #4:

Here's an easy one for you. In The Banshee Chapter, Ted Levine plays a Hunter S. Thompson-like madman. He played another kind of madman in The Silence of the Lambs. What's the name of the character in Jonathan Demme's thriller?

And now, what you've all been clamouring for - Question #5:

What is the full title of the classic fantasy film directed by the legendary low-budget director of the 50s and 60s (immortalized by John Goodman in Joe Dante's Matinee) who was famous for implementing wacky gimmicks in the cinemas showing his horror, sci-fi and fantasy films, but who also, in his final years, directed and produced a series of very serious, highly acclaimed genre pictures that were in the same cutting edge tradition as the new wave of low budget genre films being made now - like The Banshee Chapter? Hint: The full title of our mystery picture includes two "Z" letters.

So email your answers "BANSHEE" in the subject heading to klymkiwfilmcorner[at]yahoo[dot]ca. The first person to get all five questions right, will win the DVD The Banshee Chapter.

In the meantime, here are some fine levelFILM titles you can buy and if you buy 'em by directly clicking on the links below from, and then you'll be contributing greatly to the ongoing maintenance of THE FILM CORNER: