The haunted house is a perennial favourite of genre cinema. As anyone who has stayed in a really old building will know, they seem to have a life and personality of their own. Strange noises are common, as are unexplained occurrences. They have provided the atmospheric setting for many of the best horror films, including The Shining, The Haunting, The Changeling and The Others. It’s used well in Christopher Smith’s new film, The Banishing.
In 1930s England, Linus (John Heffernan) arrives in a new town to take-up the vacant reverend post. He is accompanied by his wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and their daughter Adelaide (Anya McKenna-Bruce), ensconced in the same old manor house as the previous incumbents. Many of his congregation have lost their faith following the disappearance of the last vicar. However, it’s not long until their new home starts playing tricks on them.
The Banishing works best when it plays up the creepiness of the old house. This, alongside some excellent period cinematography, gives proceedings a touch of class. Smith employs some clever set-ups and tricks as well. The problem is that the camera lingers far too long on these moments and they are repeated until they lose their shock-factor. While Sean Harris’ caricature of ‘ghost-hunter’ Harry Price feels like it belongs in a different film. It’s a shame really as The Banishing has a lot of potential but never really comes together.
The Banishing is released on digital platforms on 26 March and will stream on Shudder from 15 April.