DVD: Scream of the Banshee
Release Date: July 26, 2011
Director: Steven C. Miller
Written By: Anthony C. Ferrante and Jacob Hair
Cast: Lauren Holly, Lance Henriksen, Marcelle Baer, Eric F. Adams, Leanne Cochran, Todd Haberkorn
A cursed box, an inquisitive group, and a creature that doesn’t know when to stop. That’s the set-up for the After Dark Original Scream of the Banshee. In actuality, this is really a Syfy original that’s gotten repackaged under the After Dark series name. Being a fan of the “so bad it’s good” brand of movies that Syfy usually puts out, my sights were set low, but surprisingly it seems the After Dark series has chosen some of the higher quality films to feature in its line-up.
The premise is straight-forward. An anthropologist, Isla Whelan (Lauren Holly), has a team of students that help her restore ancient artifacts for the university. One such item that came through was a forged glove that was used by the Knights of Templar back in the 12th century. This leads them to yet another artifact, a box that can only be opened with the glove. And being inquisitive as they are, the team turns on the video camera and opens the box. Inside they find a perfectly preserved severed head whose grotesque features put it somewhere between a human and a wild animal. And that’s where the terror begins, because it’s neither. Instead, the head belongs to a long-dead banshee that has once again come to life because she’s free.
First up, let’s focus on what worked in the film. The ingenious nature of how the knight severed and trapped the banshee’s head long ago was interesting. I liked the construct of the box and was looking forward to seeing it in action again. The horror elements with the flickering lights were well-done to crank up the tension of the scenes while still leaving the banshee a bit of a mystery. It’s best to let your imagination fill in the blanks than see the monster in full-form most of the time because we can think up much more grotesque elements than special effects can provide. And I liked that the curse of the banshee pretty much turned Duncan (Lance Henriksen) insane. I was unclear exactly the implications of his character, whether he was really bad or just obsessive, but any amount of Lance Henriksen is good for me. And the effects of the banshee on the individuals that heard her was good. I liked many of the hallucinations that she elicited, which amped up the terror even more.
But like all Syfy movies, there’s a bit of bad to go along with the good. The acting when confronted with the banshee scream was a bit over the top. From a behind-the-scenes standpoint I could forgive the actors for not knowing how to act in this instance, since the sound effects hadn’t been laid over the scene when they were shooting, but it still stands out as a bad reaction to the noise. And then there were the aftereffects of the scream itself. Everyone’s ears were bleeding, they were in pain, yet there was not any temporary deafness or lingering physical effects. Shouldn’t there have been at least a bit more of a problem than some dried blood? And though there were some good special effects, there were also some bad ones. The hand reaching out and the mirror shattering felt like scenes from a 1980s horror movie rather than a current one.
The issue I most had trouble with was the plotting, but that’s an issue I have with most Syfy Originals. How did the banshee go from a head in a box to being fully human again? They did not have the tool to make her flesh early on in the movie, so was the explanation that she was merely released from her confinement and could therefore haunt again? And how does she actually kill? I know that she can only do so when the victim screams, but does the banshee kill them herself or does she just cause them to self-harm? Also, what was the story behind Whelan being a widow? She’s raising her daughter alone and there’s anger over the death, but it wasn’t fully explored with more than a passing mention.
So many unanswered questions as we rush to just trap the banshee one last time. Will she be released again? If there’s money in a sequel, I’m sure she will be. But for now, she’s stuck in a box awaiting the next time someone gets curious and wants to know what’s inside.
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars