Written & directed by Blair Erickson
Starring: Katia Winter, Ted Levine, and Michael McMillian
Journalist Anne Roland explores the disturbing links behind her friend’s sudden disappearance, an ominous government research chemical, and a disturbing radio broadcast of unknown origin.
If the thought of Mulder and Scully collaborating with Hunter S. Thompson and Tim Leary piques your interest, you might enjoy The Banshee Chapter. The film mixes questionable American history with generous amounts of faux found footage to create a terrifying look into covert drug experiments. The military did a fair amount of counter-culture drug testing back in the 1960’s, experimenting with LSD and other drugs as potential weapons in the cold war. The beginning of the film contains footage of Bill Clinton apologizing for the infamous MK-Ultra experiments, noting that the actions were horrific for any time in history. If you want to do some light reading on the MK-Ultra project, Wiki is a click away.
Katia Winter is an investigative journalist, Anne Roland, a woman driven to find her missing friend, James (Michael McMillian, True Blood). James experimented with the mysterious drug and immediately disappeared. In her search for answers, Anne meets counter-culture writer, Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine, The Silence of the Lambs), a character inspired by the genius/insanity that was Hunter S. Thompson, and the two begin a reluctant relationship. What do James and Thomas have in common and what drives the drug-fueled writer?
The Banshee Chapter works for several reasons. The first being the eerie inspiration for the film. Number stations, ghostly shortwave radio broadcasts of mysterious origin, are woven into the mythology and it makes for a creepy component. Both Winter and Levine are great in their subversive roles. Levine brings balance to the dark script with drugged out one liners, something you might appreciate when things get hyper-serious. The effects, both practical and CG, work well because you’re forced to use your imagination even a full hour into the film. The less-is-more approach is often times a big win and filmmakers could learn from The Banshee Chapter.
Still available via VOD before the February 4th DVD release, The Banshee Chapter is a terrifying blend of science, history, and horror. Strong direction from Blair Erickson elevates the film to a higher level of horror, a pleasant surprise not even three weeks into 2014. Zachary Quinto (American Horror Story: Asylum, Heroes, Star Trek) produced the film.