The reason for my absence: my computer conked, so it took a week to get prepared. With that out of the way, let's take a look at the latest "After Dark Originals" to hit DVD, both of which are the weakest thus far.
First is "Scream of the Banshee", a movie co-produced by the Sy-Fy channe, and from the director who gave the world "Automaton Transfusion". It starts out strong actually, with a flashback to the Dark Ages, in which Templar Knights kill a mysterious looking woman, and use a flying guillotine device to get the job done. It's downhill from there, as it then cuts to modern times, in which Professor Isla Whelan (Lauren Holly) and her students unearth an artifact that contains the woman's head. Long story short, said woman is a Banshee, all hell breaks loose, and Lance Henriksen (Playing an insane former professor) figures into it.
I will give the movie this much: there are moments that do achieve a sense of Gothic atmosphere, and I actually kinda liked some of the movie references here (especially those to "Master of the Flying Guillotine" and "Terror Trap.") Apart from that, nothing in this is good. In fact, it's very bad. The Banshee herself is stupid, looking like a poor, toothy "Alien" imitator who has almost Freddy Kruger like powers as far as her ability to create hallucinations and get into people's minds. The acting's not up to snuff either, with Holly's performance leaning somewhere between "Oh, I'll do my best" and "What the hell am I doing here", and Henriksen coming off as a sadistic version of a Scooby Doo Villain. Plus, for whatever atmosphere is in this, there's a distinct lack of dread, as nothing here is genuinely creepy or scary. It's mostly just boring.
Better (but barely) is "The Task", which is another entry in the rut of "reality show contestants/producers caught in a horrific situation" movies. Here, it's six people competing in a reality show called...well, "The Task." I take it the title didn't take much thought. Anyhow, they are competing in a closed jail in which a sadistic warden (Valentin Garnev) tortured and killed inmates before being executed. They say his ghost haunts it to this day, and that may (or may not) be the case. Cue supernatural slasher movie antics.
"The Task" is at least the better acted of the two, though to say any of these people are interesting or likable people would be a lie. There's also a sense of humor that occasionally made me chuckle, and one solid kill. Too bad it's all something we've seen before. Here, you know who lives and who dies, and as usual, you can't wait for them to kick the bucket. It's also directed in a rather pedestrian manner, as first time director Alex Orwell doesn't seem to know how to build tension, atmosphere or suspense. Which leads to the biggest problem-it takes way too long to get anywhere. It's at least an hour in until these kids started getting killed off, and until then, it's just a bunch of boring conversations between unlikable people who you wouldn't want to hang out with. Oh, and don't get me started on the terrible twist at the end, which...you know what? Fuck it, this is the weaker of the two.
As I said, these are the weakest of the "After Dark Originals" (or at least in this line up), and they aren't anything to look forward to. Skip 'em, and stick with "Seconds Apart."
Scream of the Banshee: 2/10
The Task: 1.5/10