25th Oct2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘The Banishing’ Review

by Kevin Haldon

Stars: Jessica Brown Findlay, John Lynch, Sean Harris, Anya-Mckenna Bruce, John Heffernan | Written by David Beton, Ray Bogdanovich | Directed by Christopher Smith

The Banishing sees the re-teaming of Christopher Smith and Sean Harris (Creep) for an old school traditional horror with a gnarly new school modern twist that proves the haunted house genre is still alive and you know what? Its doing pretty well! Strap in for possessions, creepy little kids, women going mad, a religious angle with dodgy monks and some untrustworthy reality bending as The Banishing is a horror flick that begs the question… Is it possible to escape your fate?. Oh and Sean Harris on my screen is always going to be a win so there is that.

Marianne (Jessica Brown Findley) is a young very troubled mother, moving into the most haunted house in England (apparently) in the early days of the second world war. She is moving in with her Priest husband and daughter but little do this family know that the House holds a dark secret. I mean it would have to right? it is a horror after all. The already strained family dynamic starts to really break down when daughter Adelaide (Anya-Mckenna Bruce) starts acting like a creepy little bitch and Marianne starts seeing things and experiencing strange rifts in time (or is she having a mental break). Enter Harry Price (Sean Harris) a stranger who may hold the key to helping the family or is he going to find there is no helping them?.

I had a lot of fun with The Banishing but it is not without it’s issues and my main complaint is simply that John Heffernan, as the priest Father Linus, just did not work for me the way I needed him too. In a very clever and interesting script this character had nothing to do apart from quote the bible and be possessed. I don’t know know what I wanted from him but every time he came on screen I kinda wanted to move to the next scene. Not awful, let me just say that but this cast was so bloody strong that he was a glaringly obvious weak link.

On the other hand Jessica Brown Findley is sooooo strong in this flick that she pulled me right in. Again I want to mention the intelligence of the script because her role could have gone OTT but she kept it at a believable level. Never quite over the top just on the money. Every horror movie, especially a British haunted house horror movie, needs a creepy little kid to really put the shivers up you and Anya-Mckenna Bruce nails that for my tastes.

The Banishing does something rarely seen in this genre and took a 1940s-style ghost house movie and threw in some mind bendy reality tricks. Its super effective here because your not really sure if Marianne is slowly losing her grip or otherworldly forces are trying to show her there is no escaping inevitability, she is here in this house for a purpose and that purpose needs to be served. This director, Chris Smith, has form in dealing with an intelligent structure but respecting the audience enough to know they will get it (just go watch Triangle to see that in effect). Add to this Sarah Cunningham kills it on the cinematography and does not waste an inch of the screen in these eerie beautiful surroundings.

When I read that the director of Creep was teaming up with Sean Harris again and the movie was to be shown at FrightFest 2020, I couldn’t help but get excited. Harris does not disappoint and further cements his case as one of my Top 10 British actors of all time. He makes walking down the street leading-man worthy.

Now having said all this, The Banishing is a very middling movie. It will absolutely divide people who love their horror. Its not the strongest in terms of actual horror but thrives in its cleverness. Some performances are top notch a couple are below par. You absolutely should watch this movie because it is more than worth your time and deserves your interest.

Very nearly a 3 out of 5, this is an average horror for me… but kudos to Sean Harris, who is firing on all cylinders here!

**½  2.5/5

The Banishing screened on Thursday October 22nd as part of this months Frightfest Digital Edition.


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