Sorely misrepresented by a trailer that (to me, at least) made it look like yet another "found footage" movie, The Banshee Chapter is, it turns out, a smart horror movie that mixes in some nicely atmospheric moments with some great jump scares. It doesn't quite do enough to be great, especially when the biggest jump scare is one that is repeated a number of times throughout the proceedings, but it does enough to be very good, and well worth a watch.
Katia Winter plays Anne Roland, a journalist who decides to investigate what may have happened to her friend, James (Michael McMillan), a young man who disappeared after dabbling with some drugs that were used in US government experiments in the '60s and '70s. Her investigation eventually leads her to Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine), a smart, rebellious, drug-using writer cut from the same cloth as Hunter S. Thompson. As the two delve further into the events linked to the drug, and the experiments conducted by the government, things get more and more dangerous, leading to a tense finale. They might find some answers, but they might find something much worse.
Winter is good enough in the lead role, she's likable and not too stupid (although, as is the way with many characters in horror movies, she doesn't always do herself any favours), but Levine is the big bonus here, clearly having a whale of a time as Thomas Blackburn. His performance is a lot of fun, yet somehow still mixed in nicely with the scarier moments.
Written and directed by Blair Erickson (developing from a story by Daniel J. Healy), The Banshee Chapter is one hell of a feature debut. Despite using some ideas that aren't all that original, it puts everything together in a way that feels quite fresh. The script is smart enough, the acting is solid, and there are one or two set-pieces that are impressively intense.
This is well worth your time if you're a horror fan sick of zombie films or the never-ending stream of "found footage" flicks. I'll be very interested in seeing what Erickson gets up to next.