The Banishing is the latest film from director Chris Smith (Triangle, Creep, and Black Death). The film’s aesthetic is its strongest component, especially the emphasis on costuming and set dressing. Unfortunately, The Banishing‘s shortcomings are prominent and make it nearly impossible to process the story in a succinct way. Some tales were never meant to be told as a movie.

The film’s aesthetic is its strongest component

The only way I can describe this film is as an “incoherent haunting,” but even that doesn’t do it justice. This is a religious gothic drama. This is a time traveling occult thriller. This is a chauvinistic historical Nazi romance. I have no idea what this movie was about, but I do think that with a tighter edit this could have been a very effective film.

There’s a decent attempt to make the dialogue work, and Jessica Brown Findlay does her best with what she’s given. But what she’s been given is a meaningless feminine platitude that often does the opposite of what it’s intended to do. The only other “noteworthy” performance was Sean Harris as the suddenly relevant occultist who is in essence just an unshaven whiney soothsayer, offering almost no redeeming qualities or actions.

Some tales were never meant to be told as a movie.

I will say the art direction, alone, is a reason to watch—but it’s very apparent that Smith did not connect the themes as well as he did in previous films. Put briefly, this film is disappointing but kind of fun to look at.

The Banishing premieres on Shudder on April 15th. Good luck.