Scream of the Banshee (2011)

Scream of the BansheeStarring Lauren Holly, Lance Henriksen, Monica Acosta, Eric F. Adams, Marcelle Baer

Directed by Steven C. Miller

That Syfy chose to commemorate the occasion of their 200th original movie with Scream of the Banshee seems an odd choice in retrospect. This co-production with the Afterdark Horrorfest eschews much of the typical Syfy creature feature formula by featuring a monster that is brought to life almost entirely via practical make-up and prosthetic effects, a slow-burning plot with a low body count, more nighttime scenes than daylight shots, and a general sense that the makers had loftier goals than just making another silly Syfy creature feature. For those reasons alone, Scream of the Banshee is all the more disappointing.

This is one of those reviews I dread having to write because this is one of those movies I find myself with not much to say one way or another. The only aspect I found to be truly worthy of compliment was the great practical make-up and prosthetic work done to bring the banshee to life. The one negative that skewers my entire opinion of the film remains the horrifically slow pacing. The director of Automaton Transfusion and the writer-director of Boo have partnered for a monstrous hybrid of The Ring and Dead Silence that sadly falls into that category of not being good enough or even bad enough to be much fun. I’m afraid there just isn’t much to scream about here.

For me the film also relies too heavily on one of my least favorite horror movie devices: dream sequences and hallucinations. Unless your name is Freddy Krueger I find this tactic to be tiresome. The banshee here cannot kill anyone until unless they scream first. To get them to scream she jerks potential victims around with a whole lot of mind games that aren’t any more likely to make viewers scream as it is her victims. The cast is tiny and that means the body count will be miniscule, which in turn means that most of the hallucinations will result in nothing but filler. I found myself watching and wanting to give the banshee ideas on getting people to scream. Tossing some thumbtacks on the ground near a barefoot victim seemed a much more effective means of getting someone to holler than some of her fake jump scares.

Where the production excels is the make-up work. The banshee is said to be able to appear as a beautiful woman or an old hag. For the most part she only appears as an old hag with decaying greenish-yellowish skin. Other times she takes on an even more fiendish appearance – a crazy eyeless monstrously fanged fiend that flails about like a crazy Deadite. One needs no further proof of the quality of the prosthetic work than to compare it to the few moments of poorly rendered computer animation and obvious green screen work.

College professor Lauren Holly and her students – that I cannot recall a single character’s name should tell you something – discover a mysterious box and medieval gauntlet stashed away in the basement of their university. A whole lot of strangeness surrounds this box – not the least of which being a mysterious noise emanating from it – but instead of taking their time to further investigate they just go right ahead and open it up. Inside they find the severed head of something clearly not fully human. That ghoulish head lets out an ear-piercing scream and then disintegrates. Now they’re all cursed.

An ancient evil banshee is again on the loose and the first thing she does is immediately kills the black security guard for no reason other than even having been a severed head locked away in a metal box for centuries she still fully understands the pecking order in horror movies.

When not researching the origins of the box and the legend of the banshee, Lauren Holly and her student daughter engage in some soap operatic mother-daughter quarrelling that further exacerbates the drudgery of the midsection.

After slogging along for nearly an hour the pacing abruptly shifts into overdrive for a hurried finale that really could have used some of that time squandered earlier to properly build itself. This one definitely needed more of Lance Henriksen (His name was actually misspelled in the opening credits – sheesh!) running around in a bathrobe with painted nails and a shotgun.

2 out of 5

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