Banshee Chapter (2013) starring Stars: Katia Winter, Ted Levine, starring Michael McMillian. Directed by Blair Erickson.
This is one of my favorite hidden gems on Netflix. It has all the elements I think make a great horror movie: relatable characters, a “real enough” story, and maximum use of the viewer’s imagination.
Banshee Chapter starts with a found footage clip that begins with some guys experimenting with a new drug with terrifying results. This quick introduction perfectly sets up the mystery of this drug (the crux of everything), its effects, and ultimately the motivations of the main character. We then get to the opening credits of real news clips focusing on government experimentation on it’s own citizens. I love it when movies do this.
The main plot of the film is the investigation into the disappearance of those in the found footage by a reporter friend of theirs. She slowly unearths the real story of what happened to them by getting herself deeper and deeper into the worlds of fringe science and government conspiracies. The story always stays grounded, and uses isolation and an increasing sense of vulnerability to build the suspense.
The highlight of this movie is the time spent with a Hunter S. Thompson-like character played by Ted Levine (Buffalo Bill!). Easily the best actor in the movie and probably where most of the budget went. The movie really ramps up from his introduction until the finale, where we see first hand the effects of this drug. This as all done without a ton of special effects, but with the sheer terror of the actors taking center stage.
My only criticism of this movie is that the lower budget shows in a few scenes that have a “Hey, my parent’s said we could use their beach house to film the movie this weekend, but we can’t move the furniture or pet the cat.”, which can break the suspense. I never felt this was a major issue personally, but it you have expensive taste in movies then this one might not be for you.
If you liked the X-Files or Fringe, then this movie is right up your alley.