Over the decades there have been so many haunted house horror films that you have to wonder if a filmmaker can bring something unique to the over-used trope. However, director Christopher Smith (Severance, Black Death, Triangle) manages to take the concept and run with it. For The Banishing, Smith manages to deliver a sinister horror film which is as engaging as it is creepy and one which also features some very impressive performances (especially Jessica Brown Findlay, Sean Harris and John Lynch).
Set in the 1930s, The Banishing sees a young reverend (John Heffernan) and his wife (Jessica Brown Findlay) move into a long empty home in their new parish. However, the house has a dark past and soon it begins have a negative impact on the family. Can Sean Harris’ occultist help, and how much does John Lynch‘s mysterious bishop know about the strange happenings?
With memorable imagery which is both beautiful and terrifying, The Banishing uses its 1930s period setting to good effect. The hint of WWII on the horizon adds a sense of menace and a few plot points which weave into the threat of Nazism gives the film a touch more depth than your usual fright pic.
Jessica Brown Findlay is excellent as the wife and mother trying to uncover the dark past of her home and she gets to deliver some nuance which can be lacking in a role of this kind. Sean Harris chews the scenery as a quirky occultist, with a haircut reminiscent of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland. John Lynch plays things straight as the mysterious man of the cloth who is always lurking in the shadows. It’s only John Heffernan who lets the cast down, but he has thankless role which ultimately had its limitations – a shame.
A surprisingly good genre film, The Banishing manages to navigate around every cliche in its path – and it comes highly recommended.