There are so many ways for a filmmaker to distribute their work these days that there is no longer a requirement that a movie be released in theaters. Although they are rare, if you are patient and listen to friends, you can find hidden gems that were released directly to Video on Demand, for example. When these movies are good, word of mouth helps them along, until they become cult classics.
The movie came out in 2013 and went directly to Video on Demand. For many this means the movie should be dismissed. If you are a fan of horror, this would be a tremendous mistake. Banshee Chapter is one of the creepiest and scariest horror films I have seen in quite a while.
The story is very loosely based on the HP Lovecraft tale From Beyond. Yes, there was already a movie made of From Beyond, but it was from the same director who brought you the campy and outrageous Re-Animator, so the movie itself is almost laughable (best line: "It ate him...bit off his head...like a gingerbread man!) Banshee Chapter takes a very different approach.
The best horror is not full of CGI effects. The best horror leaves the actual terror up to your imagination. You think you see more of the knife hitting the girl in the shower than you actually see. You feel the terror of the unseen monster in the ocean coming to eat you because you cannot see it. Terror works when it works on your mind, and the creators of Banshee Chapter know this.
The story is about a reporter named Anne who is looking for a write friend of hers that went missing. The writer friend was writing and researching CIA MK-Ultra mind and drug experiments. He has come across a drug that was part of those experiments called DMT-19. We see a video that was filmed of him taking the drug, followed by a creepy radio broadcast and the young man suddenly saying that something is "headed for the house." He has since vanished.
Anne wants to know why. She visits the house, finds some leads, learns about the bizarre radio broadcasts, ventures into the desert and things get scary very, very quickly. She meets up with a man named Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine) a Hunter S. Thompson writer who knows a LOT about drugs. The two of them end up searching for the source of the weird radio broadcasts that seem connected to this drug.
This movie does not let up for a moment and is a brisk hour-and-a-half. It scares, does not overstay its welcome, and leaves you quivering on the floor. The radio broadcasts are creepy (as creepy as real-life numbers station broadcasts can be), the sets are creepy and the way they film this is creepy.
You never really see the creatures that are hunting our heroes. The drug allows those who take it to "see" alternate realities, but it also allows the creatures there to see them. You get a glimpse of a terrifying face in the darkness. You see a deformed shape in the distance. Things pound on doors. Eyes turn black and people vomit blood. All the while the creepy radio broadcasts go on and on.
It's chilling. The movie was filmed on a shoestring, but I think that worked in its favor, just like the shark not working in Jaws forced Spielberg to make a scarier film. No elaborate make up or tons and tons of ridiculous cartoony special effects. Just lighting, a hand reaching out from under stairs, spooky sounds and your imagination.
Banshee Chapter has a really weird name (that is never really explained), but it's worth seeing. Find it on Netflix and OnDemand and other outlets. Try not to watch it all alone, though.
Trust me on this.