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Smoldering: Sickle's take on "The Banishing"

The Banishing follows a woman and her daughter as they move into a massive, old house with her reverend husband. When strange happenings occur in the home, a mysterious, troubled man from town warns of the house's dark past and that they must escape while they still can.

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The Banishing Review

A horror film starring Sean Harris (Possum)? This must be a slow burn. And a slow burn it is. But, this film boasts a cast with the acting prowess to carry the smolders until things begin to heat up. The Banishing isn't distinctly different from many other haunted house films, especially within the tropes it enacts. The power of the film is better seen through the nuance of its characters, the layers of storytelling, and the actors that carry it all out.

Jessica Brown Findlay (as Marianne Forster) does a stellar job in the lead role as the tortured and deprived wife who desperately wants to escape her past and build legitimate relationships with her physically-distant reverend husband and semi-estranged daughter. Her desperation and determination is palpable throughout and certainly carries many of the most powerful scenes in the film.

Sean Harris equally steals the show in his moments, in particular his interactions with the enigmatic and imposing Bishop Malachi (John Lynch), the man responsible for bringing the disjointed family to the home despite its dark past. Harris' role is constantly misleading and mysterious, as are most of the characters' motives throughout, as you feel unsure of everyone's intentions until the very end.

The haunting itself hops back and forth between predictably cookie-cutter and uniquely engaging through its use of out-of-body and time-twisting visual experiences. The treatments of mirrors and the haunting itself are effective, but unoriginal many times. The gradual progression of the haunting and the revelations therein feel like something you've seen a hundred times as a patron of the horror genre, but the journey is richer because of the characters that get you there.

The film's setting is both enriching and confusing. I am more than willing to admit my own inadequacies when it comes to catching every nuance of a plot, but there were times where I felt like a history class in the sociopolitical and religious climate of 1930s England would have helped, as some of the implied natures of the dynamics feel less fleshed out than I would have liked, leaving me a little confused about the motives of certain individuals. But it is also enriching, as I feel the horror vehicle is used well to drive explorations into worldviews from inside and outside Catholic culture during 1930s war time.

I teeter back and forth between a great appreciation for this film and getting hung up on its Downton Abbey-like appeal and its spontaneous use of conventional horror execution. But the casting was perfect, the detail given to the setting and nuance of the characters was alluring, and the creative take on the time-altering haunt through the use of mirrors and unique imagery was effective when committed to. The Banishing is inevitably worth a watch for those willing to give it some patience.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 9/10

Horror Quality: 7/10

Film Quality: 8/10

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