Banshee Chapter (2013)

Banshee ChapterWhen is a found footage film not a found footage film? When it’s Banshee Chapter, apparently, which borrows the grungy, handheld aesthetic of found footage without much actual found footage to be, uh, found.

Writer/director Blair Erickson’s debut feature actually makes pretty good use of this questionable stylistic choice, surprisingly enough. Banshee Chapter ain’t pretty, but the murky digital photography’s impenetrable blacks gives it a monochromatic opacity that suits the subject matter – a mash-up of Lovecraft and the CIA’s murky history with pharmaceuticals – concealing its ubiquitous creepies and crawlies. Shame that most of the film’s scares are stock-standard jump scares complete with blares of the static-y soundtrack; subtler work here could’ve made a genuinely memorable horror film.

Banshee Chapter – whether or not you classify it as a found footage film – can’t entirely avoid that genre’s pitfalls. Chiefly, it features some lousy dialogue and overuse of shaky cam to disguise its miniscule budget. It’s not a total bust, thankfully. Ted Levine – best known as Silence of the Lambs’ Buffalo Bill – does good work as a thinly-veiled Hunter S. Thompson analogue, while the conspiracy-thriller-cum-zombie-horror narrative is dense enough to avoid the huge stretches of boredom that define too many found footage films.

2.5 stars

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