Scream of the Banshee (2011)

Limerick, Ireland, 1188. Some Irish Templar Knights hunt down a red-cloaked figure and lob a giant metal shield at it, which magically turns into a box and decapitates the psychotic beast. Skip forward a few centuries and we find Professor Whelan (Lauren Holly) working on an archiving project in the bowels of an American university, where a mysterious package leads her to the ancient metal box, hidden within the basement walls.

Throwing caution down the toilet, the professor and her students open the box and discover – to their horror and awe – the severed head of something monstrous and very teethy. Despite being dead, it lets out an ear-bleedingly loud scream and those unfortunate enough to hear it quickly find themselves the target of an unknown force, intent on taunting, haunting and attacking them all before finally ripping their souls from their bodies…

So far so good. At first Scream of the Banshee is very intriguing, spooky stuff, but once the exposition / set-up is kicked away after the first thirty minutes, it doesn’t have a huge amount else to offer. In fact – rather bizarrely – it just gets worse and worse as the film progresses, like everyone involved simply gave up caring…

Initially the characters are likeable and understandable, but as the story moves along they actually become more idiotic, splitting up for no reason and acting without the necessary urgency required when being hunted by a psychotic, evil, witch-demon-beast from hell. But they’re not the only things acting strange – the banshee is bonkers.

Freddy enters your dreams and kills you. Jason lops off your limbs. Jigsaw forces you to make a horrific choice. Michael Myers is really pissed off at his sister. For a horror baddie, the Banshee’s M.O. is absolutely bizarre; it attacks people at random, appears in different forms, can harm you, can’t harm you, is a young blonde girl, is a toothy freak, is a crazy-eyed wrinkled green mess … the list goes on. The antagonist featured in Scream of the Banshee simply does not work because the rules are not defined. What is she? An entity, a spirit, a demon? It’s frustrating and lazy stuff and really begins to grate.

There are number of other awkward problems with Scream of the Banshee; Steven C. Miller’s direction is rudimentary and actually a bit dull, the editing shockingly bad in places, the writing occasionally laugh-out-loud terrible and the banshee itself… oh dear, oh dear… It’s a crap Buffy the Vampire Slayer baddie at best and a cheap plastic witch mask at worst.

The film’s failure rests mostly on the shoulders of writer Anthony C. Ferrante, whose previous work includes the epically bad Boo in 2005. Ferrante’s approach to the material seems lazy and scattershot; the plotting is ridiculous and things just happen, for almost entirely no reason. At one point there’s a tragic car crash simply because Professor Whelan falls asleep at the wheel, for absolutely no reason. Scream of the Banshee is populated by random moments and awkward dialogue, and it simply does not compel.

Perhaps the major pull for some audiences is the inclusion of Lance Henriksen in the cast – it certainly was for me – but he’s tragically reduced to a mumbling fat cameo, mostly seen in video diaries, and it’s a marginally embarrassing performance. Henriksen is still an awesome actor, but Ferrante seriously failed to utilise his talents.

This review may seem overly negative, but that’s because I watched the film for more than 30 minutes. If Ferrante had taken the same invention, tension and sharp characterisation from the beginning of Scream of the Banshee and injected it into the rest of the film, this would’ve been a damn fine movie… but he didn’t… and it’s not. This is another mistep for the After Dark Originals brand, who recently released the shoddy horror flick The Task, which followed a plethora of decent releases. Scream of the Banshee might just be their worst release to date…

Scream of the Banshee is a mess. It begins very promisingly but then it stumbles, trips and falls headlong into the bottom of the barrel and splashes around in the putrid muck for sixty long minutes after. The banshee is laughable, the script awful and the direction very pedestrian. This film is not a death-knelling scream, but a quiet, disgruntled mutter. Avoid.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

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