Investigating the demons – both real and imagined – of some irredeemably blown minds, co-writer/director Blair Erickson’s excellent pharmaceutical horror petrified festival audiences last year, despite being shown in ill-advised 3D.
It’s even scarier at home, not least because it plays out in abandoned houses, long-forgotten labs and desolate desert-scapes. Oh yeah, and it’s a true story. Well, mostly.
Based on the staggeringly unethical MK Ultra drug trials the US Government conducted in the 1960s, it begins with a young man (Michael McMillian) ingesting a mysterious substance and filming the results. What follows might be the scariest sequence you’ll see all year; you’ll certainly never hear an ice-cream van jingle again without shuddering.
The body of the film concerns journalist and friend Anne (Katia Winter) looking into McMillian’s disappearance with the help – and hindrance – of Hunter S Thompson-alike author Thomas (Ted Levine). Imagine HP Lovecraft meets The X-Files with a dash of J-Horror and you have one hell of a bad trip.
Intercut with scenes of terrified test subjects tormented by unseen demons, Banshee Chapter is shot with just enough found-footage urgency to convince, even if you’re not sure whether you’re seeing extreme paranoia or genuine possession.
Either way, an atmosphere of unease permeates every frame, as in Ju-On, Ringu and the under-appreciated Aussie effort Lake Mungo. The results are truly disturbing – if not always entirely coherent – and one of the most effective anti-drugs campaigns imaginable. Remember kids, just say nooooooo...
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