4/12/2021

The Banishing (Review)


Director: Christopher Smith
Writers: David Beton, Ray Bagdanovich, Dean Lines
Cast: Jessica Brown Findlay, Sean Harris, John Lynch, John Heffernan, Adam Hugill
Year: 2020
Min: 97

It is 1930s England, and Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and her daughter Adelaide (Anya McKenna-Bruce) move in with her husband and vicar Linus (John Heffernan). The previous family who lived there has mysteriously disappeared. But, Marianne is a free-thinking woman, while Linus is very much man of the cloth and the old ways. Bishop Malachi (John Lynch), who assigned Linus to live in this creepy old place, is an even bigger asshole and is definitely suspicious. Of course, said house has freaky shit happening including the family seeing and hearing various creepy occurrences. There is also a so called pagan named Harry Price (Sean Harris), who knows quite a bit about the old house and what is actually going on. 

The Banishing is a British, haunted house movie from cult favorite director Christopher (Severance, Triangle, Black Death) Smith. The movie first premiered in Spain's Sitges Film Festival in October 2020 and later that month in England's FrightFest Film Festival. In March of this year, it started streaming in the United Kingdom and will now be making its streaming premiere here, in North America, when it premieres this Thursday, April 15, 2021 exclusively on Shudder

The movie starts off creepily and tonally it remains fairly consistent. As there are a couple of chilling moments throughout it. It has a strong sound design, which works effectively in adding to the scares. The flick is a slow burn, with mostly quiet horror, that is broken up by a couple of decent jump scares. Said scares aren't ground breaking, but at least a couple do kind of work. There is little to no gore here, but that is to be expected of most movies like this.

Still, there are some tropes that are harder to overlook. The child acting weird and being influenced by the evil definitely falls under the category of we have seen this way too many fucking times. In fact, the flick lifts elements from The Shining, Poltergeist, and Insidious. At times, it might be too slow, but at least its run time is relatively short. This stopped me from complaining of it being truly boring. It also manages to be very intriguing in its climax. That being said, I am not sure if I actually liked the ending. This does serve to sum up my overall feeling of this movie quite well, as in, I like parts of it and others not so much. 

There is some very fluid camerawork throughout its run time. You see, I have nothing but praise for Smith's visual look for the movie. I love the framing of his shots. As his use of lots of medium and wide takes, makes great use of the widescreen format. 

The characters are quite well written and bought to life by excellent acting. John Heffernan believably brings Linus, a hard to like man, to life. This character is so religious that he doesn't even want to sleep with his beautiful wife, Marianne. But, it is John Lynch's Bishop Malachi that is the film's truest asshole with his strong performance. Our protagonists are quite likable, though. The most interesting of the male characters, by far, is Harry as played by Sean Harris. Meanwhile, Jessica Brown Findlay is excellent and very easy to get on her side as Marianne. She feels real, even if you wish she had made a better choice in a hubby, which is an actual central theme within the flick.

Speaking of which, its themes like this that add some depth to the more generic happenings. Among them is its not too subtle attacks on religion. This particularly true in its role of how sexiest against women these beliefs are. I also liked its very clear stance against Nazis and fascism. These aspects do help elevate the movie and make it feel suitably timely. Without these plot elements, the movie would certainly have flattered, and I would have thought considerably  less of it.

As a fan of Smith's work, especially the excellent Triangle, I found The Banishing to be somewhat disappointing. Though to call it a bad film would be wrong, as uneven is the better word to describe it. On one side, it features very strong acting, especially from both of its protagonists in the form of Harris and Findlay. The characters are well written and the themes it takes on are timely. These aspects really helps to elevate its quality. It also manages to have a few creepy moments. On the other hand, it is too slow, at times, and takes elements from other better, haunted house flicks. And, while it has an a climax that will catch your attention, its ending, like what before it, feels decidedly bumpy. But, with a run time that is just the right amount, at least it doesn't overstay its welcome.



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