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Film / Banshee Chapter

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There are many rules for mental and physical survival in a Lovecraftian universe, but avoiding mind-expanding psychotropic drugs is likely in the top three.

Especially if that psychotropic drug was developed in secret by the government.

Journalist Anne Roland's friend James has gone missing, leaving behind only a terrifying tape of his experiments with a drug called dimethyltriptamine. What she discovers is an eerie connection between the drug, illegal human experiments, a chilling Numbers Station, and strange extraplanar beings that only DMT users can see... and who want to "wear us".

Banshee Chapter is a 2013 horror movie directed by Blair Erickson and starring Ted Levine, Katia Winter, and Michael Mc Millian. It was heavily inspired by the H. P. Lovecraft story From Beyond, which is also referenced In-Universe.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adventure Duo: Anne and Thomas.
  • Amateur Sleuth: Anne.
  • Alone with the Psycho: After the attack on Thomas' house and Callie's disappearance, Anne eventually drives to Callie's house to investigate where she got the recipe for the DMT-19. She ends up in Callie's lab in the basement of her house, reviewing surveillance footage showing Callie entering the basement and disappearing off-camera. Anne realizes that the footage was recorded only a short time earlier, and that Callie (who is pretty clearly possessed by the entities) is in the basement with her.
  • Backstory Horror: The ending shows a dark secret of Thomas' past.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Thomas blows his brains out when he and Anne are cornered by a number of the entities.
  • Black Site: The climax location.
  • Body Horror: After Anne destroys the transmitter and seemingly causes the creatures to dissolve into dust, she finds James's clothing at the Chapter 5 site, implying that the horrific creature that had been chasing her throughout the site was him being "worn" by one of the extradimensional beings.
  • Brown Note: The mere presence of an entity somewhere nearby makes Thomas feel extremely unwell, to put it mildly. Callie also is affected but in her case she just becomes terrified without some obvious health issues.
  • Chekhov's Gag: Thomas did something funny at the party in his backstory. It was a long time ago and insignificant to the main plot. And after a while there will be another pass at it.
  • Conspiracy Kitchen Sink: Has MKULTRA, numbers stations, human experiments, etc., and the CIA is behind it. It manages to one-up even that when it turns out the whole thing is a plot by extradimensional aliens to cross over into our reality.
  • Cue the Sun: Deconstructed. By the time Anne leaves the black site the night has passed. It seems that all horror is finally over. Or is it not?
  • Darkness Equals Death: Many of the test subjects are just yanked into the darkness and vanish without a trace.
  • Downer Ending: Anne finds out the truth and seems to destroy the transmittor, but the police think she's crazy or was tripping on acid, Thomas is dead, James is dead, Renny is still missing, and Olivia turns into one of them while Anne is trapped in a police interrogation room with her.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Turns out Thomas was subject to experiments with DMT when he was in college.
    • And vulnerability to the monsters is not contingent on the drug; it's contagious by touch.
  • Escape from the Crazy Place: Anne manages to escape from the abandoned Black Site at the end of the movie.
  • Exploring the Evil Lair: At the end of the film Anne and Thomas enter an abandoned Black Site.
  • Expy: Thomas Blackburn is an homage to Hunter S. Thompson—in particular his "Raoul Duke" persona.
  • Eye Scream: Exposure to the drug and/or the entities causes bleeding from the eyes, and ultimately apparently removal of them.
  • Fantastic Drug: DMT-19, which turns the brain into a receiver so otherworldly beings can find the users and possess them.
  • Found Footage: The movie features plenty of scenes set in this manner.
  • Funny Background Event: When Anne is in the police station at the end after the worst experience ever involving the government-created DMT, the wall behind her is plastered with posters about the dangers of drug use.
  • Genre Savvy: Thomas. He is the most cautious and resourceful out of all the characters, is at least partially prepared for what might be ahead, and smart in his own way. At one point he even makes a remark mentioning the works of Lovecraft.
  • Ghostly Gape: The default expressions of possessed characters.
  • Good-Times Montage: Anne and James spending time together.
  • Government Conspiracy: The government is shown to be involved in the case to a certain extent.
  • Haunted Technology: There are many instances in the film when various devices start acting weird. A radio might turn on by itself, an intercom suddenly starts relaying gibberish, lights go off, broadcasts foreboding an evil presence and so on.
  • Human Resources: The drug is derived from the human pineal gland.
  • Humanoid Abomination: Those who fall victim to being possessed becomes one of these as the invading entity twists their bodies into monstrous and disturbing forms.
  • I Lied: Thomas pulls this twice on Anne. First, he tells her the blue liquid (which she ditched) didn't actually contain any DMT, but the whiskey (which she drank) did, in retribution for her lying about her identity and purpose to get a sample of DMT. Second, at the very end, he tells her that the DMT wasn't in the whiskey, either, meaning there was no way for her to be able to see and hear the transmissions.
  • Inescapable Horror: The main characters escape the threat many times yet just to meet it again and again, even in a seemingly very safe place.
  • It's a Small World, After All: After Anne tells Olivia about her investigation progress, Olivia at once tells her who the clues seem to lead to, what this person does and in no time fetches his book that has been conveniently kept in a room right next to them, at the workplace.
  • Just Friends: Anne and James are shown to have spent a lot of time together, sometimes somewhat intimately, cuddling and kissing. They are not presented as a couple, but they have strong feelings for each other, and when Anne finds out about James' disappearance she wastes no time and starts her private investigation which gradually becomes more and more dangerous for her, and she still proceeds further. Overall, this trope really is downplayed in the movie and very little time is dedicated for this part. After all, it is a Lovecraft horror, and not a love story.
  • Nightmare Face: James and Olivia, in their last respective scenes.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: We see very little of the entities, mainly in glimpses and jump scares.
  • Numbers Stations: One of these becomes audible to those who take DMT. Oddly it actually broadcasts the DMT formula and is presumably where the government got it from, creating a bit of a chicken and egg situation.
  • Ominous Music Box Tune: Played intermittently on the numbers station.
  • Omniscient Database: After a search through an NSA database, Anne easily finds info on Henry Cale, an ex-agent.
  • Pineal Weirdness: The drug is derived from the human pineal gland, and gives people the ability to see strange extraplanar entities.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Anne and Thomas have this dynamic. It is clear that he does not really want to risk and would prefer to just hunker down and hide, while Anne is willing to get to the very bottom of things even if she has to get involved with strangers (some of them being downright shady), explore an empty creepy building at night, or enter a monster lair just to snoop around.
  • Space Whale Aesop: Taking psychotropic drugs will cause you to be eaten and impersonated by extraplanar beings.
  • The Stakeout: Anne sets out into the desert at night to catch the radiowave that is broadcast in a specific time period at the right coordinates.
  • Stranger Safety: Double Subverted. Anne does get tricked by Thomas in a very nasty manner but then they still go on a small trip together and he does not pull anything weird on her anymore. He could simply drive away and leave her to herself, instead he stays with her and they even explore the monster lair together.
  • Vagueness Is Coming: Throughout the whole movie the main characters now and then have encounters with strange phenomena or entities but no one seems to know what really it is all about. Callie feels that something is after her, but she does not explain much. Anne is scared as well and expects being chased, but Thomas treats these fears as mere speculations. He's got a point as it looks like he and Callie have been taking the drug for quite a long period of time, and him turning out to be a test subject, still alive after all the years passed and no incidents except for this very last night. It is unclear why Thomas and Callie manage to stay in safety so long, while James and Renny are assaulted instantly.