One of the real downsides to being a massive horror buff is that you don’t scare easily.

In fact, if I’m brutally honest, I couldn’t really tell you the last time I was actually genuinely scared by a fright flick.

Don’t get me wrong, I still fall foul of the old ‘jump scare’ every now and again, but as for a sustained level of fear – well, it just don’t happen anymore.

So when a film comes along like Banshee Chapter, complete with all and sundry hailing its scare qualities, I take it with a pinch of salt.

But the truth is this off-the-wall flick is as close to ‘scary’ as I am probably going to get, and it is certainly unsettling.

Loosely based on some real-life clandestine CIA mind control experiments (that actually involved dosing people with LSD), the story centres around some dodgy drug-doing back in the 70s, with a cocktail dubbed MK-Ultra.

These experiments, involving the brain fluids of dead folk being injected into the living, disappeared into the mists of time after they were canned, with some grainy found footage and a few sketchy documents all that remain.

But that doesn’t stop scientist James Hirsch (Michael McMillian) from trying to find out more and, after he somehow gets his hands on some of this MK-Ultra, things go a bit loopy and he vanishes.

Enter investigative journalist Anne Roland (Katia Winter), who just happens to be an ex of James, who is determined to get to the bottom of what really happened – a journey that will take her into some deep, dark places, as well as joining forces with a counter-culture guru (played with relish by Ted Levine).

Directed by first-time helmer Blair Erickson, and exec-produced by none other than Zachary Quinto, Banshee Chapter certainly delivers if it is dark, dank entertainment you are after.

Large swathes of the film take place in abandoned houses, or abandoned complexes, complete with plenty of sinister shadows and things popping out unexpectedly.

The director also produces a canny mix of regular footage, some unsettling grainy tapes of the 70s experiments and real-life news footage looking at the true-life cases, and it lends the whole thing an air of intrigue that really works.

Winter and Levine  make a good double act – sure, Levine’s Thomas Blackburn is a bit of an ass – but he’s an entertaining ass, and Winter’s Roland is a resourceful heroine.

There are a few effects scenes here and there, complete with ridiculously crashing soundtrack jars, which I am sure work well in a packed cinema – less so when you are sat at home.

But the vibe is the thing here (fitting for a movie concerning dodgy substances), with the film having this somewhat bizarre, offbeat feel to it from first frame to last.

It’s not a perfect film – and I’m still trying to get my head around the ending to be fair – but Banshee Chapter is certainly worth opening your mind up to for 90 minutes.

VERDICT: [rating=4]

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.