THE BANISHING (2020) Reviews and overview

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‘Some houses were never meant to be a home’
The Banishing is a 2020 British horror film about a young reverend and his family who are threatened by a demonic spirit.

Directed by Christopher Smith (Triangle; Severance; Creep) from a screenplay co-written by David Beton, Ray Bogdanovich and Dean Lines. Produced by Maya Amsellem, Sharon Harel, Neil Jones and Jason Newmark.

The Westend Films production stars Jessica Brown Findlay, Sean Harris (Possum; Prometheus; Deliver Us from Evil), John Lynch (Boys from County Hell; Hybrid) and John Heffernan.

A young reverend, his wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and their daughter Adelaide (Anya McKenna-Bruce) move into a manor with a horrifying secret. When a demonic spirit possesses the little girl and threatens to tear the family apart, the reverend is forced to confront his beliefs…

Director Christopher Smith told Variety: “The way I pushed and directed the script is so that the horror is coming out from within the characters. Ghosts are individual for the people; you get haunted by something different to the next man, based on your life. I really wanted to factor that into it.” He added: “You go into the house, and the house unravels you.”

The Banishing is a solid thriller that’s shot beautifully and amazingly acted. There is a good amount of meat to the story, yet we don’t quite get to dig into it as much as we should. With many entries in the haunted house subgenre, this can’t really hold up to modern classics like The Haunting of Hill House but offers enough to keep itself afloat.” Arrow in the Head

“While the premise is not that original the director has a proven track record in the horror genre, ably demonstrated by a number of interesting ghostly moments, as well as occasional jump scare. All helped by a more than competent cast, but in the end undone by a confused script – with plenty of ideas but no real cohesion.” Cpt Pants

“Smith’s previous genre offerings have mostly stuck to gore gags and malice; The Banishing distances itself from both, focusing on being a more traditional period ghost story. It’s a direction that works and demonstrates Smith’s progression and maturity as a filmmaker. For much of the film, he sticks to the conventions of this type of tale, emulating the likes of The Turn of the Screw and The Woman in Black.” The Hollywood News

The Banishing works tirelessly to discredit shame by confronting truth and while we’re being beat over the head by the message, the overlay of horror is lost despite some brilliant and engrossing performances from Findlay and Harris who usher us through to the imperfect conclusion.” It’s Bloggin Evil!

“There does feel to be too many cooks in the kitchen, as the stories of personal shames, the Church being idle in these times, and occultist Harry Reed clash with one another, in spite of excellent performances (especially a magnetic Sean Harris.) I would say the first two acts are stronger than the third, reminding me of Insidious in what occurs.” James Rodrigues

“There’s spook business with mirrors and monk figures, but it’s mostly a sombre, steady character drama in which everyone gets to crack up.  Heffernan adds to his recent run of quivering neurotic roles (he was Jonathan Harker in the BBC’s recent Dracula) as a cleric who always seems on the point of ripping off his dog-collar and primal screaming, while Harris (who was the titular Creep) is full-on sinister…” The Kim Newman Web Site

“Ultimately, The Banishing’s biggest weakness is in its horror. A couple of jump scares and some creepy moments aside, there is little to really scare you or keep you thrilled and tense. A lot of The Banishing is too slow, which works well to develop the characters and when the plot touches on themes of women’s liberation, but severely lessens the fear element of the film.” Loud and Clear

“Smith does a solid job in establishing a sense of malevolence in The Banishing. He evokes familiar gothic tropes while integrating a moral subtext into his plot involving patriarchal injustices and political threat. How this conflict is worked into the journey the characters take while they wrestle with the evil in the house is well-orchestrated, even if it all never quite reaches the crescendo we are hoping for.” The Movie Waffler

“For The Banishing, Smith manages to deliver a sinister horror film which is as engaging as it is creepy and one which also features some very impressive performances (especially Jessica Brown Findlay, Sean Harris and John Lynch) […] A surprisingly good genre film, The Banishing manages to navigate around every cliche in its path – and it comes highly recommended.” Movies in Focus

“Yes, the plot of The Banishing could have given us more scary surprises, and there are some sluggish moments. However, The Banishing still becomes a strong haunted house movie. This is because of the beautifully created vibe, the impressive performances and the love this movie was made with.” OC Movie Reviews

“The plot is nonsensical, the script (three writers!) erratic and the acting veers between wooden and hammy. Yet it’s directed with such painterly eye and genuinely unsettling visual flair that I was willing to overlook any and all of its fairly obvious weaknesses. Kudos to Chris Smith for polishing what’s basically a bewildering mess.” PowWow

“Where the film is considerably more interesting is in the moments where it plays with the looping of time, mirror images that cannot be trusted, and sequences shown from different and unexpected angles. These are ideas Smith previously executed to great effect in Triangle where, like here, it is suggested that free will is a myth and that we are doomed to repeat our own mistakes.” Screen Daily

“Eerie mirror images and visions of creepy monks heighten the tension and palpable level of fear, but it’s down to the acting that makes The Banishing such an engrossing watch. Finlay and McKenna-Bruce are simply stunning. It’s particularly rare for a young actor to accomplish so much to sell the scares […] The Banishing is one of the best haunted house films we’ve seen for a while.” Starburst

The Banishing does get the look of the period right. Marianne seems a bit outspoken for a woman in the 1930s, though a comment about her “artist friends” indicates that may be due to a more Bohemian, less traditional past. The result is a film that’s interesting, if a bit slow for the most part, before racing to a conclusion that’s equal parts obvious and confusing. Smith handled the intersection of the church and the supernatural much better in Black Death.” Voices from the Balcony

” …it’s a very mixed bag, and it does feel as though Smith has felt the effects of a long detour away from the genre: The Banishing isn’t as seamless, as secure in itself as his earlier films. […] The Banishing effectively weaves a few moments of satisfying unease and it clearly has ambition, but these are crowded out by some over-busy, overstretching or plain confusing choices.” Warped Perspective

Choice dialogue:
Linus [John Heffernan]: “Why does God allow evil to exist? Why does he allow war? There are times. There are times when we feel his absence.”

Cast and characters:
Jessica Brown Findlay … Marianne
Sean Harris … Harry Reed
John Lynch … Malachi
John Heffernan … Linus
Jason Thorpe … Doctor Sutter
Cokey Falkow … Barman
Adam Hugill … Frank
Anya McKenna-Bruce … Adelaide
Seamus O’Neill … Old Man
James Swanton … Monk
Amy Trigg … Agnes
Nigel Travis … Burt
Danny Shayler … Monk
Sara Apostolaki … Woman in Rags
Jean St. Clair … Betsy

Technical details:
97 minutes



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