After Dark Originals 2011: Scream of the Banshee (2011)
Well another Saturday night, another 6-pack of Guinness, another SyFy Original, and another night of low expectations. Luckily SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE, the third After Dark Original (ADO) made in conjunction with the SyFy channel which premiered ON the SyFy channel, proves to be a pretty fun flick. This one also has the distinction of being SyFy’s 200th original film. That’s right folks the SyFy channel has made 200 original films and they all come with interchangeable parts (i.e., the acting, f/x, plot points, etc …). Now this next statement you have to read carefully because it could be confusing. Ready? Ok. For a SyFy Original, SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE is your pretty standard, formulaic film. But for this years ADO line up this is the best of the three films I’ve seen so far (pretty sad, eh?). So let’s get into it.
The film begins back in the times when swords and folklore ruled the land. We follow a group of Irish Templar Knights (I’m serious) as they track down and kill a Banshee, a female Irish creature seen as an omen of death whose scream can kill you (but then again what woman’s scream can’t … am I right guys!??! Guys?). The Irish Templar Knights (I just wanted to be clear about this point) builds this shield that when thrown on the Banshee cuts off and seals it’s head up in a nice carry-friendly box. Cut to the present day and we join Isla Whelan (a still pretty hot Lauren Holly) who’s a … come on take a guess … you’ve seen as many of these films as I have. She’s either a scientist, a (ex-) special forces soldier, or a … a professor!! She’s a professor. Her specialty is never really explained but I’m assuming her Ph.D. is in “old bitches cut-off heads in old dirty boxes.” I’m just saying.
She has the basement offices where she’s doing some kind of research with quirky grad students Otto (Todd Haberkorn) and Janie (Leanne Cochran). Her daughter Shayla (Marcelle Baer) is also helping out but really doesn’t seem too interested in mom’s work. There’s an attempt at throwing in a sub-plot about how mom and daughter don’t get along because Isla wasn’t around when daddy was dying. But that sub-plot was forgotten as quickly as it was introduced. Isla and group find the box with the head in it, open it, the head dissolves into dust after screaming out a note that was almost more annoying than listening to Celine Dion, and then a full-bodied Banshee appears to start offing the cast one by one. Standard stuff by all means, but a quick pace and some good performances raise this one above the typical SyFy Original fare. The cast does as good a job as they can with the silly dialogue and rice paper thin story line. But the filmmakers here were smart enough to throw Lance Henriksen (as Broderick Duncan)into the mix to give it all some genre credibility (he’s in it maybe 10mins towards the end and plays his typical bat-shit crazy character that we all know and love).
The production values here are way better than your average SyFy flick and in this aspect felt more like a theatrical release. But best of all the Banshee creature itself was done with practical f/x. Yeah I know, right!! The practical f/x stick out in SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE because we’re all so used to SyFy cranking out shitty CGI creatures like the History Channel cranks out documentaries on Hitler. Let me tell you that it was really fun and exciting to see a creature done the old school way. Don’t worry, though, folks there’s still some shitty CGI here to make you feel at home (one scene has smoke and then a huge arm coming out of a TV screen done through CGI … it was really retarded looking). Kudos to the makeup department for designing and executing a really cool looking Banshee creature. There’s also a few juicy moments with some blood flow; nothing over-the-top, have you, but bloodier than most SyFy flicks. This extra extra bit of blood can be attributed, no doubt, to director Steven C. Miller, who directed the indie zombie flick AUTOMATON TRANSFUSION back in 2006. SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE is nowhere near as fun as Miller’s zombie flick (which will have a sequel coming out next year), but Miller definitely brings some of his own crazy filming style to the party. For the most part we get a typically shot film, but there’s quite a few nightmarish/hallucinatory-like scenes where Miller gets to strut his stuff and show off his directing chops.
Considering the first two After Dark Originals lineup for 2011 that I saw, HUSK and 51 (big “blechs” on both those films), SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE is a tremendous step forward. The pace moves quick enough so you won’t be questioning every ridiculous theory and plot hole that comes around (and there are plenty like why is Lance Henriksen’s front lawn and house filled with mutilated mannequin parts?), the acting was better than most ADO/SyFy Original, and we get lots of practical special f/x. This is definitely one of the more enjoyable SyFy Originals I’ve seen in some time. By no means should you go out and rent or buy this one, but if you catch it on the SyFy channel check it out. It’s good for a few laughs and for a good looking creature. Who knows, maybe in another 200 films SyFy will hit another winner!! Recommended for TV viewing only.
Director: Steven C. Miller
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer