film probably could not have been made while Hunter S. Thompson was alive. As a
gun nut with a taste for experimental drugs and paranoid politics, anti-hero Thomas
Blackburn is conspicuously modeled on the gonzo journalist. Thompson might have issued a shotgun rebuttal
or he might have been amused by it all.
In fact, Blackburn is by far the best thing going for Blair Erickson’s
murky conspiracy horror movie, Banshee
opens this Friday in select cities.
the sake of his gonzo-ish book, James Hirsch plans to sample an industrial form
of MDMA used in the CIA’s ill-conceived MK-ULTRA mind control experiments. It is all for the sake of journalism, mind
you. Long story short: bad trip. After Hirsch mysteriously disappears, leaving
behind only some expository video tapes, his former ambiguous college friend
Anne Roland sets out to track him down.
synthesized drug was supplied to Hirsch by “Friends in Colorado,” which is a transparent
alias for Blackburn. When Roland tracks
down the anti-social novelist, he tricks her into partaking some of his associate’s
freshest batch. That also leads to a bad
trip—of supernatural dimensions. In
fact, Banshee is actually based on
H.P. Lovecraft’s short story “From Beyond,” which we can glean because
Blackburn helpfully takes time out to tell the tale to Roland.
character actor Ted Levine (recognizable from Silence of the Lambs and about a jillion others films and shows) is
frankly kind of awesome as Blackburn.
Listening to him snarl and snark is a blast. As an added bonus, Katia Winter’s Roland is a
reasonably intelligent and forceful genre protagonist. Unfortunately, it takes
forever to get the two together.
determined to establish Banshee’s inspired-by-real-events
bonafides, Erickson shows us clip after clip of archival press conferences and
congressional hearings, as well as his found footage dramatizations of MK-ULTRA
experiments gone wrong. As a result, the
first third of the film has the feel of a cheesy old Syfy Channel special.
Of course, once the narrative finally starts it
makes no sense whatsoever. Somehow the
CIA “Numbers Stations” are bafflingly involved in the cosmic skullduggery, but
the logic is sketchy. About all that’s
missing are Area 51 and the Grassy Knoll. Clearly, Erickson has more talent for
dialogue than plot development. Levine
chews on some great lines, but when Banshee
ends, viewers will be wondering what that was all about. Genre fans will
probably get a kick out of Blackburn on Netflix, but there’s not enough there
there to justify theatrical ticket prices.
For diehard Lovecraftian conspiracy junkies, it opens tomorrow (1/10) in
Los Angeles at the Arena Cinema (and has already released on VOD).
Labels: H.P. Lovecraft, Horror Movies, Ted Levine