Tag Archives: David Beton

Altar Noise

Confesssion

by George Wolf

These pandemic times have given us plenty of films with small casts and minimal settings. But add in the overly talky nature of Confession, and you’ve got a film that must have been inspired by a play, right?

Actually, no, which makes its construction that much more curious.

Writer/director David Beton’s thriller plays out in real time, starting when the bleeding, gun toting Victor Strong (True Blood‘s Stephen Moyer) stumbles into Father Peter’s (Colm Meaney) church with some sins to absolve.

They talk, and we start to learn a little about what brought Victor to this desperate moment. His wife was murdered years earlier and now, before Victor’s own imminent death, he needs his 18 year-old daughter to be set free with the truth of his past.

But Victor is a hunted man, and soon Willow (Clare-Hope Ashitey from Children of Men) joins the congregation with her gun, her badge, and a very different side of the story.

So far, so pretty good, as Beton’s pace makes time feel precious and the performances set effective hooks for tension and mystery. But once things start unraveling…things start unraveling.

You’ve got two versions of the truth to sort out, plus some secrets that Father Pete’s been keeping. But instead of simple flashbacks or a more ambitious Roshomon-style of reveal, Beton is content to just tell us things.

While that approach can work (see last year’s Mass), it undercuts the very nature of a visual medium. And when some of the excessive dialog is both unlikely and unnecessary (like someone saying “Come on, come on!” into a ringing phone even though they’re hiding), it chips away at the strength of your coming payoff.

Beton eventually does add a couple new faces and a weak flash of action at the finale, but by then the tension built early on has been wasted. Much like a troubled mark facing dwindling options and a ticking clock, Confession just ends up saying too much.

This Old House

The Banishing

by Hope Madden

Filmmaker Christopher Smith has repeatedly proven a knack for horror.

Whether he locks us up in the tunnels beneath London with Franka Potente (2004’s Creep), transports us to the Dark Ages with Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne (2010’s Black Death), or forces us on a weekend corporate team building of death (the sublime 2006 horror comedy Severance), Smith takes an audience somewhere we probably shouldn’t go.

The Banishing drops us in rural England, just days before WWII. Marianne (Jessica Brown Findlay, Downton Abbey) and her young daughter arrive at a beautiful-if-creepy estate where Marianne’s husband Linus (John Heffernan) has just been appointed Vicar.

Naturally, the house is haunted. The Church says one thing, but this odd redhead from town (Sean Harris, the picture of subdued weirdness) whispers another.

The Banishing is really the first Smith film to walk such familiar ground. His screenplay, co-written with David Beton and Ray Bogdanovich, takes inspiration from England’s infamous Borley Rectory—allegedly the nation’s most haunted house.

The direction that inspiration leads is rarely in question. Smith trots out a lot of familiar ideas, though he does package them well. Some incredibly creepy images accompany Marianne’s deepest fears, and Smith puts horror’s beloved old mirror prop to exceedingly spooky use.

Performances are solid as well. Findlay, in particular, finds depth and genuineness in the frequently portrayed role of the woman to be deemed insane in lieu of dealing with the supernatural.

Smith sometimes crosses over effectively into the inner working of the mind, and these scenes feel freshest and most engaging. They are overwhelmed, unfortunately, with stale plot devices.

The result feels very un-Christopher Smith-like (if there is such a thing). He’s been a tough filmmaker to pinpoint because each of his movies varies so wildly from the last. The Banishing looks and feels unlike anything else he’s done. Too bad it feels so much like what everyone else has.