From the 1950s, right up until the 1970s, the CIA performed a number of mind control experiments, which was known as Project MKUltra. In the film Banshee Chapter, a young man named James Hirsch (True Blood’s Michael McMillian) goes missing after filming himself taking a drug, known as Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) 19, which was used in the MKUltra experiments. James’ ex-girlfriend, and online journalist, Anna Roland (Katia Winter) decides to retrace his steps and find out what happed to her friend. Anna’s search leads her to an eccentric drug-abusing author named Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine), who was the one who provided James with the DMT-19. Together, they find out that using the drug attracts these other-worldly beings, who wants to use human bodies as hosts. Anna and Blackburn set out to uncover the secrets of MKUltra and stop these entities from crossing into our world.
I have to say that I found Banshee Chapter to be one of the most terrifying films I have seen in quite a while. The film is quite good and building tension over many minutes, before going in for a big scare. While I do admit that the film’s somewhat over-reliance on jump scares might affect repeat viewings, the film was still a very well-paced and scary thrill ride. I also like how Banshee Chapter is built around real life horror, with the CIA’s mysterious MKUltra project being a major focus of the plot. The film starts off with archival footage about MKUltra and one of the major plot elements in the film is a video of MKUltra experiments Anna finds, segments of which are shown throughout the film. Banshee Chapter also incorporates the mystery of Number Stations, in which mysterious voices are heard over shortwave radio frequencies, often reciting numbers. These recordings in the film, which often play when the beings are nearby, are quite creepy, even more so when it was found out that the filmmakers used real Number Station recordings for the film.
Banshee Chapter also features a standout performance by Ted Levine (Silence of the Lambs) as Thomas Blackburn. It is quite obvious that Blackburn is inspired by Hunter S. Thompson and he adds some much needed comic-relief in between the scary scenes. There is also a scene in the film, which has Blackburn summarizing the plot of H.P. Lovecraft’s story story From Beyond to Annie, which is probably the closest the film has to an explanation to what is pursuing them. However, it is probably for the best that the film takes a “less is more” approach, since it’s much scarier that you do not know exactly what these beings are.
Overall, I have to say that Banshee Chapter was a terrifying thrill ride and one of the most tense horror films I have seen. I really enjoyed being scared by this film.9 | REALLY LIKED IT