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‘The Banishing’ review: Jessica Brown Findlay carries movie about England’s most haunted house

Performance over scares.

The Banishing has a promising if familiar premise. The film is a supernatural horror story about the most haunted house in England. A family moves into an old manor house. Before long, strange things begin happening. As with many movies of the sub genre, time is spent building suspense. The Banishing uses the first two acts to establish its characters and setting. The camerawork stands out early on. In particular, the scenes involving mirrors and hallucinations are very well done. 

The Banishing introduces many plot threads during this time. Along with the haunting, the 1930s backdrop touches on the onset of World War II, religion, and gender roles. None of them end up fitting into the greater overarching plot. It ends up being too much for the film to take on and many potentially interesting stories end up being dropped.  

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The main theme is slow in developing. This is not uncommon in a haunted house story since it is a great way to build tensions. Regretably, it fails to connect here. The atmosphere and scares are fine, but the movie itself is over bloated. When there are too many tangibles, then the finer points such as suspense end up getting lost.

Jessica Brown Findlay is terrific as the troubled and passionate Marianne. More than just a frightened wife or lightning rod for change, she is a layered character that drives The Banishing. As things progress and Marianne tries to deal with everything that is happening, the character also changes. This character arc is the best writing in the entire film. 

The Banishing is a nice little horror movie that takes on a little too much. Jessica Brown Findlay does a magnificent job in carrying the film. Some of the scares are well done and the story does know how to create a mood. There is a lot of good to be found. Unfortunately, there is a lot more that does not matter.

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