RELEASED YESTERDAY ON DVD!
After taking the lid off a mysterious box she and her students found in the university's basement, an archeology professor hears the dangerous, blood-curdling scream of a banshee that proceeds to hunt down her and her pupils relentlessly.
Of the eight films that fall under this year's After Dark Originals banner (films for the first time actually produced by the company), six have thus far been released onto DVD throughout this year, with the final two coming later in the year. Hate to say it but i've fallen way behind on this year's crop, having only so far seen Husk and now Scream of the Banshee, released yesterday onto DVD along with The Task. I've obviously gotta play catch up before I can make any real judgement call as to whether or not this has been a successful year for the company, but they're so far two for two in my playbook. Much like I found Husk to be a fairly entertaining flick (read my review), I also had a good enough time with this one tonight.
Scream of the Banshee was co-produced by Syfy and in fact premiered on the channel back in March of this year. Not exactly something to brag about, given the lack of quality that generally comes out of Syfy, but this is actually one of the better movies that has followed a "Syfy Presents" opening credits proclamation in quite some time. Banshee has got three standout things going for it, three things that are very rarely seen in any movie that Syfy has anything to do with; a decent story (even if it's not very original), likable three dimensional characters and practical gore and creature effects.
Much of the runtime of the film is spent on the story and characters. One the one hand there are admittedly those boring moments of tedious downtime where you just want to see a demonic banshee tear some shit up (certaintly could've used a bit more of that) but it's ultimately quite nice to see a horror film, especially one Syfy had their mittens all over, focus on those two elements. The acting is solid (with one glaring exception) and the characters are, rare for about 90% of horror movies, folks you'd actually rather see live than die. Go figure.
As for the practical effects, i've come to really appreciate and respect any current day horror film that employs them over CGI, which is again something not often seen in the films put out by the Syfy network. The film is fairly tame when it comes to gore throughout, all of it capable of airing on TV (in fact, I would imagine this DVD version is the same exact one that aired on Syfy, jarring commercial break cuts and all), but there are some solid moments of practically pulled off bloodshed and old school style creature effects whenever the banshees are on screen, who at times are humans with demon makeup on and at other times look more like the over the top creatures from Feast. Would've benefited from a bit more gore but again, it's just so nice to see makeup effects artists get work rather than computer wizards. I hate that that's something that's so rarely seen these days that it's become a selling point for a horror film, rather than standard practice, but that's the age we live in.
The only real downside of the film is the fact that though Lance Henriksen (whose name is spelt wrong in the opening credits) is in it, his role is fairly small, more of a glorified cameo until the final 10 minutes of the film. He's referenced a bunch throughout and serves as a major part of the storyline, but you can tell the director didn't have much time to work with him on set. As always though, even with the limited screentime he gets, Lance creates yet another memorable character through yet another commendable performance (even if you get the sense that he knows he deserves to be in a better film). God bless Lance for elevating all the horror flicks he's in to the next level, even the ones that aint so great. That being said, i'd really love to see him get some bigger roles in some better movies at some point. If anyone deserves it, it's that man.
All in all, Scream of the Banshee is a fairly fun way to kill an hour and a half. It's nothing new or overly impressive but some good effects, decent characters and a strong focus on story (which is ironically both a positive and at times negative aspect of the film) make it one of the better Syfy efforts out there.