Directed by Christopher Smith, The Banishing stars Jessica Brown Findlay, John Heffernan, John Lynch, Anya McKenna-Bruce, and Sean Harris. Set in the 1930’s England, the film revolves around the legends of the real life Borley Rectory in Essex, England.
As the film begins World War II is not far away, fascism is on the rise in England and returning from ministry work are the Reverend Linus (Heffernan), his new wife Marianne (Findlay) and their daughter Adelaide (Anya McKenna-Bruce). All of whom are moving into the large Borley Rectory.
Now three years before Linus and his family moved in a strange murder/suicide took place but this is hidden from Linus and he is told by his superior Malachi (Lynch) that the previous occupants “moved to warmer shores.”
We are soon given clues to the type of marriage Linus and Marianne have with indications made that Linus saved Marianne’s reputation by marrying her. Also, it appears they have never shared a bed as husband and wife creating speculation that Linus is not the biological father of Adelaide. Linus instead appears to be more comfortable with his Bible and prayer books than his own family – who appear to be an inconvenience to him!
Following the sombre set up we dive headlong into haunted house movie 101 with Marianne feeling uncomfortable in the house and Adelaide finding a doll with no eyes that she names Veronica. Soon Veronica is living in a doll’s house version of Borley Rectory created by Adelaide alongside three small brown robed figures that stand around her!
Meanwhile Linus is off to visit the town and bumps into Harry Price (Harris) who warns him of the history of Borley Rectory and declares that it has latent power as it was built on the site of a monastery whose monks carried out satanic practices.
Soon the strained relationship between Linus and Marianne begins to crack and all three members of the family begin to experience strange occurrences in Borley Rectory.
Acting wise every single member of the cast brings their A-Game. No faults can be placed on their shoulders for the shortcomings of this movie. Also, the setting of Borley Rectory is almost a character itself and delivers a supernatural solitary sadness that helps you feel the isolation and uncomfortableness the characters are experiencing.
Despite all this, a spooky doll, mirrors, satanic monks, creepy music, and all that you would expect from a haunted house movie The Banishing falls apart due to its pacing and plot threads. Whilst I understand that pacing can set mood at times, I felt the pacing slowed down too much leaving audiences to lose interest. Furthermore, the plot progression felt disjointed with some threads introduced early in the movie seemingly forgotten whilst other elements clunked along. The ending is what it is, and I guess is open to interpretation, but we all get the point.
Verdict: 5/10. There is a good movie here somewhere, perhaps a directors cut will be the best way to find it. That said the strong performances of all the cast glue this film together and save it from being an also ran. Whilst this is more The Shining than The Haunting of Hill House it is still worth a watch, with an excellent cast drawing you into a mystery that did not quite deliver for me.
The Banishing premieres on Shudder Apri 15th 2021.