Movie Review: The Banshee Chapter


Director: Blair Erickson

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Every now and then you get a movie that will take some events or occurrences that are part or were part of our social/government structure and will spin those events into a story that is both engrossing and strange at the same time.  I am not talking about movies that will blatantly claim ‘Based on a True Story’ and then pass the movie off as the official version of events.  I’m talking about imaginative writers taking some elements of true events and coming up with their own tale to make a movie that isn’t supposed to be passed off as fact but a movie that comes off as something that will make us interested in the real subject matter and also make us wonder…What if?

The basic subject of ‘The Banshee Chapter’ is centered around the drug induced mind control tests the CIA and American Government conducted on its own citizens in the 1960’s and also the strange occurrences of number stations that people can find on short wave ham radios.  ‘The Banshee Chapter’ takes both unrelated things and ties them together in a unique and imaginative way.

For a little bit more back story on the subject matter, during the Cold War US Intelligence experimented on American citizens who were deemed ‘less than desirable’ type of people, such as prostitutes.  What they did was give these test subjects drugs, such as LSD, to see if they could figure out a way to mind control people to help them find against the Russians.  This all later resulted in very public trials and hearing decades later and is a well known matter in the United States now.

As for the numbering stations, this is a phenomena shrouded in a bit more mystery.  For about a century people with short wave radios at times can pick up signals that will play some music then a recorded voice will air listing out random numbers.  They tend to be broadcast from different parts of the world, languages and it’s not clear what they are for.  There are different theories about what numbering stations are and their purpose but no one really has any concrete evidence and like the government mind control experiments they do exist and are not hard to find out about.

‘The Banshee Chapter’ takes these two, seemingly unrelated occurrences and ties them together.  It starts off with a guy named James who is planning on writing a book about the drug used in the mind control experiment from the 60’s.  James has a friend taping him as he takes the drug and before long some weird shit happens and things do not turn out well for James or his friend taping the event.  James disappears and his bud vanishes not long after.

Now enters James’ sort of long lost girlfriend Anne who finds out about the occurrences and tries to find out what happens.  Anne finds out the drug was sent to James from a Hunter S. Thompson type of guy named Thomas Blackburn in Colorado and also she discovers a tape that has footage of the mind control experiments.

Anne first looks into the strange noises on the video that James had recorded of himself  and finds out it is a numbering station which in turn she goes and tries to locate…which results in a late night drive into the desert which yields few answers.  Anne then makes contact with Blackburn and goes to his house for a drug party with same drug James used.  There she meets a chemist names Callie who is able to make the drug and then all parties involved start a night of an acid trip gone bad.

I don’t want to spoil ‘The Banshee Chapter’ by talking to much about all the events involved but it does a good job of weaving a supernatural tale out of events and things that are and were in place in our own society.  I always thought the subject matter of numbering stations was an interesting one, I was even planning on writing a story about them, and I always wondered what they really were.  The writers of ‘The Banshee Chapter’ do a good job of adding their own spin to the subject matter and making an already strange and somewhat creepy idea even stranger.

Another positive of the movie is that it is hybrid found footage movie.  You do have scenes where characters are taping themselves but the film makers do not abandon traditional film making either as you will have scenes that are shot in a way that is meant to be a regular movie.  As a result the film makers and viewers are not limited to having to deal with only what a camera someone is holding may see and it plays off great in the movie.  Another plus is that while the movie does have a lot of depth in the story it’s trying to tell it also leaves things to the viewer’s imagination as to really what happened with these mind control experiments.

On the negative side however, is that while the story is a very interesting one it is easy to get confused about a few things and there was one plot hole about the drug use and Blackburn that I had a hard time putting together in how it fit into the story and how the drug worked.

Overall the plot hole issues I let go.  The movie is very well acted, has depth with its story and the subject matter is just kind of cool and fresh for horror movies.  Especially for those of us who like fringe element type stories and paranormal things.  I highly recommend ‘The Banshee Chapter’ as it offers up a very strange tale that will keep you watching and wondering what is going to happen next even though you might not understand the big mystery behind it all.



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