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Featured DVD Review: Scream of the Banshee

July 24th, 2011

Scream of the Banshee - Buy from Amazon

Scream of the Banshee starts with the words, "Syfy Presents", which is a really bad sign. But, it is also part of the After Dark Films label, which has had pretty good success in the past with their films. Expectations are therefore somewhere in-between those two companies. Is the film better than the average Syfy Original movie? Will it surprise and be better than the average After Dark release? Or will it surprise in an unpleasant way?

The Movie

The film opens in 12th Century Ireland with the construction of some type of two-pronged weapon and an intricate shield. We later see three men chasing after a woman on horseback and while she is able to kill two of the men, this strange shield transforms into a box and is used to decapitate her, trapping her head in the process.

Flash forward to modern day and travel to the Santa Mira University, where we meet Professor Moira Whelan, who, with the help of her team, is restoring archeological artifacts. The latest find she needs to catalogue is an ancient gauntlet from 12th century Ireland. It was packed with a map of the basement of the university, which is where her assistants, Janie and Otto, are working. Otto seems particularly interested in the artifact, mainly because he can wear it and and dance the robot, and when Professor Whelan's daughter, Shayla, shows up, she and Otto follow the map and discover a secret room. Inside the room is a box with the word "Duncan" stenciled on it, and inside the box is the box from the prologue. Even though the box is vibrating, and it sounds like it is breathing, they decide to open it and find a severed head. It's a shock to them, but not to us. It is a surprise when the head comes to life and starts screaming before burning. Everyone who hears the scream, Professor Whelan, Janie, Otto, and Officer Sioux, the night security guard. While Professor Whelan, Janie, and Otto try and figure out what to do and how to explain this to the school, Officer Sioux is in the bathroom trying to remove his earpiece, which fried during the scream. It isn't long before he becomes the first victim of the Banshee.

Meanwhile, later that night Professor Moira Whelan tries to figure out where the box came from, and with only one clue: Duncan. She learns Duncan is Broderick Duncan, a professor who retired from the university a decade ago. She tries to track him down through his former assistant, Frederick Page. Meanwhile Janie and Otto do more research on Duncan's theories, and in doing so learn of the banshee, just in time for Otto to come face-to-face with the legendary creature.

So how is Scream of the Banshee? It matches expectations rather well. It is closer in quality to films like Husk than Goblin, both of which I've previously reviewed.

Some of the film's strengths include better than expected special effects. The decision to go with good prosthetic make-up instead of cheap computer animation was a smart one. The writing was an asset, even if the plot followed a rather familiar path. (How many films can you think of where the protagonists unwittingly unleash a monster, only to be forced to recapture it? Probably a lot.) The acting was better than expected with Lauren Holly leading the way. Lance Henriksen can always be counted on to lift the material, and the delivery on his "end of days" rants and in the finale certainly boost the film's overall entertainment value. The supporting cast was also solid throughout. There's not a lot of gore and maybe too many jump scares and / or dream sequences, but overall the mood was right.

Compared to the average low-budget horror film, Scream of the Banshee is certainly above the crowd. It's not great, but fans of the genre will want to check it out.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is an audio commentary track with the director, Steven C. Miller, and the composer, Ryan Dodson. It's a good track that balances the information and the entertainment. It's heavy on behind-the-scenes anecdotes and the trials of working with a small budget and a very tight schedule, which is not surprising. It's worth listening to.

The Verdict

Scream of the Banshee is another success for After Dark and while I haven't seen many Syfy Original movies, this is one of the best of the ones I've seen. The DVD isn't loaded with extra, but the one special feature it has is worth checking out. If you are a fan of the genre, it's worth checking out for most, picking up for some.

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Filed under: Video Review, Scream of the Banshee