Horror movies and haunted houses. It’s probably the most common combination in the film world. So it comes as no surprise that many directors are still exploring what haunted mansions have to offer. Now, director Christopher Smith (“Triangle”, “Severance”) is taking on that well-loved topic, and he’s giving his spin to it. While his “The Banishing” can’t keep us on our toes the entire time, thanks to the wonderfully haunting story written by David Beton (“Green Street 3: Never Back Down”, “I Am Soldier”), Ray Bogdanovich (“The Hatton Garden Job”) and Dean Lines (“The Hatton Garden Job”) and the well-picked cast, the movie becomes a scarily good hit.
Smith takes you to the pre-World War II area in England. Reverend Linus (John Heffernan) arrives at a small town with his wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and daughter Adelaide (Anya McKenna-Bruce). After leaving their house behind, they now live in the same old mansion that used to be the manor of the previous revenants. You would think that getting a beautiful old house is great but not in this case. The last vicar who resided in the mansion mysteriously disappeared. Therefore, the house isn’t only deemed haunted, but many of Linus’s new congregation lost faith in their Lord. Sadly, Linus becomes too aware of those two elements too much too soon.
While he’s preaching the Lord’s love to only a handful of people, the house is coming to life most darkly. Adelaide starts to talk to creepy dolls and sees strange figures (including a sinister version of herself) in the mirrors. Marianne herself supposedly sees the murder of their deaf housekeeper Betsy (Jean St Clair). We say “supposedly” because it seems that the events in question never took place. Marianne starts to question her sanity, and due to which she goes to a local occult spiritualist Harry Price (Sean Harris). He advises her to stay away from the mansion. However, we all know that something haunted, well, will always come and haunt you, no matter what you try.
When talking to Smith, he mentioned that while he didn’t write the script himself, he pushed the story’s boundaries that the three writers provided to him. He turned it into a story that scared him, and that was extremely interesting to him. We can confirm that “The Banishing” is scary during a vast amount of scenes; the ‘interesting’ part of the movie could have been a bit more intriguing and original. While there are some weaker moments in this movie, there are undoubtedly many scenes and elements in “The Banishing”, allowing you to have a great time.
The first aspect why “The Banishing” should be on your to-watch list is the cast. Smith worked together with both Brown Findlay and Harris, and it’s understandable why he went for those two great talents. Brown Findlay (“England Is Mine”, “This Beautiful Fantastic”) captures Marianne’s layers perfectly, especially the one from the restrained vicar’s wife who clearly wants to rebel. She holds this movie together, a film that could have been the usual and predictable horror movie. Harris (“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”, “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”) his performance might seem unhinged and strange, but that fits his character as the weird spiritualist perfectly.
McKenna-Bruce (“Louis Wain”, “Cleaning Up”) brings both the sweet character traits and the devilish ones of Adelaide beautiful to life. Thanks to her performance, her and Brown Findlay’s on-screen mother-daughter relationship shines through in the movie. Another impressive performance comes from Heffernan (“Misbehaviour”, “Official Secrets”) as the preacher who declares the love of God but who forgets what real love is. He certainly doesn’t do what he preaches. While he could be seen as the villain for that, Heffernan brilliantly brings out the human aspect of Linus.
Most of this movie takes place in a beautiful and impressive mansion that has enough large and dark rooms to create a horror movie with. What stands out in this film is the production design. It makes you wonder what’s happening, if Marianne is losing her mind and what Adelaide is going through.
Yes, the plot of “The Banishing” could have given us more scary surprises, and there are some sluggish moments. However, “The Banishing” still becomes a strong haunted house movie. This is because of the beautifully created vibe, the impressive performances and the love this movie was made with.
“The Banishing” is available on digital platforms in the U.K. from the 26th of March 2021.
Check out our interview with director Christopher Smith here.