Rating: R
Stars: Katia Winter, Ted Levine, Michael McMillian, Jenny Gabrielle
Writer: Blair Erickson, story by Daniel J. Healy
Director: Blair Erickson
Distributor: XLrator Media
DVD Release Date: February 5, 2014

BANSHEE CHAPTER | © 2014 XLrator Media

BANSHEE CHAPTER | © 2014 XLrator Media

Although it relies to a large extent on found footage, fear not the format – THE BANSHEE CHAPTER is actually a well-made, delightfully acted and best of all honestly scary brain twist of a horror movie. Between some cleverly edited real footage (we hear from President Bill Clinton, of all people), the name-check of H.P. Lovecraft and a character clearly patterned after Hunter S. Thompson, it’s a trip in all the right ways. The genre-heavy cast is an added bonus, with Ted Levine as a drug-addled counterculture author a standout.

Writer/director Blair Erickson, working from a story by Daniel J. Healy, introduces us to Anne Roland (Katia Winter, currently playing Katrina Crane on SLEEPY HOLLOW), a journalist looking into the mysterious disappearance of her well-loved college friend James (Michael McMillian, the Reverend Steve Newlin on TRUE BLOOD). James took a drug sent by “friends in Colorado” and something clearly went very wrong. Even the friend documenting James’ unfortunate experiment has vanished. Anne’s search for answers leads her to burned-out counterculture hero author Thomas Blackburn (Levine), who thinks the government may have cooked up the substance James took, which opens the mind up to other dimensions, which … well, if one has read any of the H.P. Lovecraft material Blackburn mentions, is known to be problematic.

There are some real scares here, even when we know they’re coming, and the Moebius strip nature of the storytelling is handled extremely well. An opening title expressly telling us this is all tied to U.S. government chemical experimentation on humans in no way ruins what comes next; indeed, it’s wise to put that up front, as it’s a story element so familiar that we might resent it if it were presented to us as any sort of surprise.

Erickson’s desaturated look (much of the film is in black and white) and use of specific light in dark environments helps up the creepiness factor, and he’s spare enough with actual horror images that they deliver a jolt whenever they appear.

Winter plays smart and determined well and McMillian is sweet and likable. However, it is Levine’s performance as the bigger than life but sensibly apprehensive Blackburn that really sticks in the memory. When we think of Lovecraftian lore, Levine’sBlackburnwill be added to the trove.

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