This movie had plenty of promise.
Starting with Director Christopher Smith who helmed both Severance and Triangle, movies that I hold in high esteem.
It also heralds one of Britain’s most curious and obscure haunted locations, The Borley Rectory as its prime location. Throw in a strong supporting cast with Sean Harris as the infamous psychic researcher, Harry Reed, and John Lynch as Bishop Malachi, and you’d be forgiven for asking yourself, what could possibly go wrong?
One word screenplay. And add the word woeful before it.
The plotline is not only confusing, but also lazy too, especially when it resorts to using Nazis as its primary depiction of evil.
Sure, since the wake of the Second World War, there hasn’t quite been a group so closely associated with the darkest of humankind, but it feels like a cop out to constantly use them as the go to to subject our greatest atrocities on screen.
The film does open with a shocking scene, as we are presented with a priest who murders his wife and then carries out self-flagellation before seeking aid from his physician to cover up his crime.
We then close in on our central characters, Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and her husband, Linus (John Hefferman), a priest who takes up residence at Morley Hall, not knowing of its dark past.
They are not alone however and an evil presence still resides within its walls, waiting to inflict itself on the couple and Marianne’s daughter, Adelaide. Slowly the essence of evil grows strong and seeps its way into the weaker areas that the couple hold and the firmer its grip takes hold, the further apart the couple become, exposing their secrets, their fears, and ultimately a way to doom them unless it succumbs to rest.
The film’s greatest strength however doesn’t contain these two central characters though in its support cast of the afore-mentioned Lynch and Harris.
Thank God too as both Melanie and Linus border on boredom with their two-dimensional representations, which is no fault of the actors who play the parts, both of whom eke out as much as they can with little material to work on.
Harris in particular lifts the scene with every moment that he is on the screen, and you can only wish that his presence was more exposed throughout the movie.
Instead we’re subjected to the whimsical torments of Melanie and Linus’ fragility.
The cat and mouse game that Reed and Bishop Malachi play with one another, just about keeps your interest along with the pendulum of trying to depict who is the the good or bad conscience in the world of torment.
The Banishing wallows in its own misery and fails to lift itself out of the ashes of a troubled script.
It’s one saving grace is Sean Harris’ superb depiction of spiritualist Harry Reed, and the odd moments when John Lynch chews up the scenery.
Unfortunately, there’s a lot to be forgotten here.
- Saul Muerte