Like most haunted house movies these days, “The Banishing” is said to be based on an actual location, but this one is notoriously England’s most haunted haunted house, Borley Rectory. After a surprising prologue that hints at a movie that doesn’t really follow – Smith has a habit of pretending in one direction and then going in another, usually less interesting – “The Banishing” introduces the new vicar in town, a man named Linus (John Heffernan, doing next to nothing in terms of performance), who came to Borley with his new wife Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay) and daughter Adelaide (Anya McKenna-Bruce). Of course, it doesn’t take long before ‘Addie’ (a name called out about 400 times during the movie) makes an imaginary friend and Marianne hears some strange things in the middle of the night.
The bulk of “The Banishing” consists of Marianne facing the demons that have emerged from Borley’s tarnished story, and she meets a local psychic named Harry Price, who is played by Sean Harris as if he were in a movie entirely. different and superior. As he has done in the past, Harris looks for the kind of creepy register that could be called unrealistic, but he understands that this movie needs that kind of weird jolt of energy to get under the viewer’s skin. . And thank God, too much of what’s around Harris is just flat and moldy. There are too many times when it feels like “The Banishing” has to move on to Full Argento and Smith is too careful a filmmaker to do so. It’s dull when you have to be terribly confrontational.
A fatal flaw of “The Banishing” is that the central characters stuck in this haunted house aren’t engaging. Say what you want about Flanagan’s weaknesses, he understands that the character is the key. We have to care about people who are haunted or it seems hollow. The same goes for the obvious inspirations on this project like “The Innocents” or “The Others”. Try however she wants to give her non-character some seriousness, Findlay just isn’t memorable, and Heffernan is even more of a non-character, someone whose background and motives never feel defined. You know a movie is in trouble when the supporting characters outside of the haunted house are more engaging than the protagonists stuck in it. You almost start looking for ghosts.