Scream of the Banshee (UK DVD)
Directed by Steven C. Miller
Distributed by G2 Pictures
When archaeology professor Isla Whelan (Holly), elbow deep in an already-behind-schedule cataloguing/restoration project, receives a strange package containing an ancient Irish gauntlet and map to a hidden area of the university’s storage room, it isn’t long before fake walls are destroyed and a similarly ancient ornate box is found.
Aided by students Leanne (Cochran) and Otto (Haberkorn), she sets about opening the box with the gauntlet to discover a grotesque, toothy, severed head. A grotesque, toothy, severed head that summarily opens its eyes, lets out a tremendous scream and then evaporates.
Yep, you guessed it! If you’ve read the title of the film, then you’ll know that said head is that of a Banshee, and hearing it scream is going to be pretty bad news for our principal cast members. Well, bad news it is as almost straight away each is tormented by violent visions of a hideous old witch and other spooky goings-on. As the creature ups the severity of its attacks and the body count begins to rise, it’s up to the plucky professor to track down the man who sent her the gauntlet and map – ex-professor Broderick Duncan (Henriksen) – and find a way to stop the curse before they all go out screaming.
Banshees are pretty cool monsters, with plenty of promise and ability to bring the scares in the world of horror cinema. Unfortunately, nobody quite seems to have done it right just yet, and that includes the lacklustre Scream of the Banshee. It’s really not hard to tell that the film is not only an After Dark Original, but a Syfy Original first and foremost as the slapdash editing makes absolutely no effort to hide the made-for-TV origins, including abrupt scene transitions that literally chop the score off mid-phrase.
Production values and script are of a similar quality that one would expect from most modern Syfy productions, meaning that while the cast really do seem to be trying their best, the dialogue and narrative beats are insipid, predictable and cliché at best and sheer laughable at worst. Trite attempts at character-ingratiating humour in the early stages fall completely flat, only serving as a baseline for audience expectations that never really climb. Lance Henriksen, only showing up to really do anything in the final act, slums it to such a degree it’s hard not to think that the pyjamas/housecoat get-up his character wears is actually his own gear that he just couldn’t be bothered removing when he staggered off to the set that day.
The creature effects are generally quite decent with some nifty makeup jobs, but the Banshee’s later form is just far too goofy and Muppet-like to be anything approaching threatening. The less said about the CGI in this film, of which there is quite a bit, the better. Many action sequences, including the finale, are rendered choppy and robbed of impact due to the inclusion of shoddy CG elements.
While it might not be an entirely unforgivable waste of time – it does get from A to B exactly as it needs to – there are a thousand other things more worthwhile to do with your life than devote your attention to Scream of the Banshee. Just when things begin to settle into a rhythm, an obvious commercial break edit or bad CGI composite will knock the immersion. Just when the mythology is being expanded upon in what would appear to an interesting way, three lines of dialogue will throw everything right back on a safe, cliché track – and just when you think things are about to get scary, a giant waggling Muppet head will fill the screen. Even a heady dose of abject absurdity (the box is actually a specially designed cross-shaped shield that closes itself on impact to sever the creature’s head) can’t bring it to so-bad-it’s-good territory.
Honestly, the only scream you’re going to remember when this one has finished will be your own: A mixture of frustration at the waste of such monstrous potential and relief that it’s finally over.
The review copy of this UK DVD release of Scream of the Banshee came in the form of a time-coded screener, so unfortunately it isn’t possible to comment on the technical qualities of the final release. This one, however, displayed a visual sturdiness above most screeners of this nature and also sported a pleasing 5.1 surround sound audio track that managed to get the room shaking nicely when the creature unleashed its various wails. If the final release is equal to, or better, than this, then there’s nothing to worry about on that front. Looking over at the special features camp, it looks like everyone there has succumbed to the Banshee’s mind games and vacated the premises. All signs point to a bare bones release.
1 1/2 out of 5
0 out of 5
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