Jessica Brown Findlay stars in The Banishing, a horror film about a young lady who moves in to a stately manor with her reverend husband (John Heffernan) and their young daughter in the late 1930s. They try to keep their marriage together and the local church afloat as they are haunted by strange goings on around their new home as well as a sinister conspiracy tied to the previous owners.
The Banishing, despite having a reasonably well regarded director behind it in Christopher Smith, feels incredibly cheap. The lighting is dull for the vast majority of the film. This makes basically every single shot look drab and akin to the likes of an early university project. What adds to the overall student film vibe of the film is the fact that the camera operator was clearly never supplied with any form of tripod or Steadicam; the frame always seems to be shaking uncontrollably. This is not in the Paul Greengrass type, intentional way, it definitely feels like a camera operator who’s having a tough day and needs a break. Of course, the directing isn’t very exciting either. There’s virtually no shot variety, other than one moderately well executed trombone shot. In addition, the titles that come up at the beginning and end of the film look like stock fonts that you would find on Windows Movie Maker.
The acting in The Banishing, on the other hand, isn’t too bad. Jessica Brown Findlay and John Hefferman give completely inoffensive performances. You believe them as people and not cardboard, but it never goes any further than that. Sadly, the characters aren’t very interesting so you can only go so far when trying to connect with them. Sean Harris is in this film and is credited with an “and”. Usually when a bigger name is credited like this it means that they’re in the film for all of five minutes. Take Bryan Cranston in Godzilla (2014) for example. Thankfully, this is not the case for Harris. Unsurprisingly, Harris gives the best performance in the film and the scenes he’s in are just about bearable. Though you can’t help noticing that he looks pretty ridiculous in the ginger clown wig the make up team applied to him. The presence of a talent like Sean Harris is not enough to save this film, however, as the story is nigh on nonsensical.
If you were to play a drinking game of horror movie clichés with The Banishing, you would most likely be in hospital thirty minutes in. Dodgy vicars, creepy dolls, haunted houses, asylums, orphanages…it’s all here. Right at the end of the film there’s a plot beat that alone could have made for a much more interesting film. Dismally, of course, that’s not the story we got and instead we are left with an unwelcome cocktail of Annabelle and The Shining with a slight dash of The Haunting Of Bly Manor.
You do not need to watch The Banishing, because if you have watched at least five horror films, then you’ve most likely seen this exact story told in a much more interesting and exciting way.
The Banishing will release on Shudder on April 15th