Film Review: The Banishing (2020)

Not even the presence of John Heffernan and Jessica Brown Findlay can save The Banishing from its rather punishingly dull fate

“That poor, poor woman”

I did want to like The Banishing, starring as it does fave-around-these-parts John Heffernan and Jessica Brown Findlay in its cast. But Christopher Smith’s film reveals itself as a rather staid entry into the British horror canon, offering little to make it stand out on any creative level.

A haunted house would-be thriller set in the 1930s, it follows the travails of a young family who move into a creaking, creepy house in Essex as Heffernan’s Reverend Linus takes on a new parish. His wife Marianne (Brown Findlay) and daughter Adelaide soon find themselves hearing things that go bump in the night but the truth is something much more troubling is afoot.

Or at least it should be. Screenwriters David Beton, Ray Bogdanovich and Dean Lines offer up hints of dramatic intrigue as the rise of fascism is counterpointed and Marianne’s bohemian past unveiled but anything interesting is sacrificed at the altar of Gothic nonsense as malevolent monks come into play.

And again, Smith’s direction offers a little hope with some interesting work blurring the lines of time and space to create some gorgeous visuals, but these avenues remain underexplored as the film ends up as one of the what-might-have-beens of the world.

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