Set during Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s, The Banishing follows Marianne and her daughter Adelaide as they move into her clergyman husband’s spooky new parish. British director Christopher Smith here adds ‘gothic haunted house’ to his repertoire of horror genres, which include the monster movie Creep, sinking ship disaster film Triangle, comedy-horror Severance and medieval horror The Black Death.

Smith’s careful eye is evident in the film’s production design, costumes, and cinematography, which together faultlessly create an atmosphere of gloom and claustrophobia. The film explores conventional gothic horror tropes: after moving into Morley Hall, all three family members begin to suffer the typical haunted house mishaps. It’s in these paranormal moments that the film truly shines, with genuine shocks and even the more familiar imagery used in artful and thrilling ways.

It features solid performances, a solid plotline and visual cohesion, but The Banishing is let down by its pacing, which is slow to the point of tedium. Dissonant dream-like sequences and repetitive scenes break tension and add little to the atmosphere where plot development would be more welcome.

The threat of war looming behind the characters’ plight gives early promise to the direction of the story, and so does the war-traumatised character of Harry Price, played by the excellent Sean Harris, whose character brings a much-needed glimmer of hope to the story. Ultimately though, Smith fails to deliver any real resolution to his themes of fascism, patriarchal religious control, and sexual inhibition – which is a shame, because they knit together well at first.

While not quite delivering on its promises, The Banishing is a solid gothic horror which is elevated above B-movie status by its thoughtful visuals and skilful spooks. This one will appeal to fans of quiet, theatrical horror films and anyone not sick of scary dolls after The Haunting of Bly Manor.



CAST: Jessica Brown Findlay, John Heffernan, Sean Harris

DIRECTOR: Christopher Smith

WRITER: Christopher Smith

SYNOPSIS: In 1930s England, a young family move into a new parish, unaware that their home was the site of a series of traumatic and macabre incidents. Young wife Marianne attempts to keep her marriage to clergyman Linus on track, but things soon start to unravel. To save her family, she must uncover the dark secrets of the most haunted house in England.