Early Screener Review: Bethany (2017)
Claire and her husband find themselves moving back into Claire's childhood home only to have the abusive and traumatic memories of her mother come back to haunt her. As her husband starts to get more work, Claire finds herself mixed up in a fog of past and present with a mysterious figure haunting her memories. Why is her childhood imaginary friend trying to reach out to her, and what does it want?
REVIEW: I'm pretty cautious when it comes to doing a review for an Uncork'd Entertainment movie as usually I'm not a big fan of their work, however I saw that James Cullen Bressack was attached to Bethany as its director and I've enjoyed his previous work on movies such as 13/13/13, Blood Lake, and Pernicious, so that put my mind at ease a bit more, giving me hope that this would be one of the Uncork'd movies I actually enjoy. Also helping was the fact that this movie has a pretty all-star cast with Tom Green, Shannon Doherty, and Zack Ward, so for the first time in pretty much forever I went into an Uncork'd movie without too many worries.
It did not take me long into the movie to notice, and be quite surprised with, just how great the chemistry is between all the cast in this one. Even in low budget movies I adore, sometimes the chemistry is pretty much non-existant, but here you really believed these people had real chemistry with one another and that alone goes a long way to making a movie enjoyable, especially in slower horror movies (as opposed to quick fast-paced giant monster flicks or the like where it's not really as important) because for a lot of the time the interactions and chemistry between the characters might be the only thing really going on for long stretches of scenes, so that has to be the crutch of those scenes and without chemistry, those scenes would just fall apart. In addition, so much of the movie hinges on Stefanie Estes's performance, seeing as how she's the main focus, and for someone I'm not familiar with at all outside this movie she does a great job. She's fantastic playing the innocent and sweet side of the role that makes us fall in love with her, but she does just as good with the side of the role where she's being mentally tortured and quickly descending into madness, which is a hard feat to pull off. So many actors in tons of other movies attempt the same thing and it just does not come across as natural at all, but she pulls it off here seemingly with ease.
Luckily this movie is not a one-trick pony and has more than just the chemistry and acting going for it. Aside from the fantastic moody and atmospheric musical score, this movie is genuinely creepy, both in terms of cheap jump scares (which for the record, I'm usually fine with when they're done right, as they are here - that face in the shower scene got me pretty bad, didn't help it was very reminiscent of Japanese ghosts which always freak me out) and fun icky gore shots, as well as the smaller subtle stuff like a spoon having changed locations on the table each time it's in view of the camera. There's also no shortage of truly unsettling scenes, with some dealing with long thick tight threads (as in doll threads) coming out of someone's face or someone ripping a layer of their face off to reveal another face underneath it, and other scenes dealing with much more real issues such as suicide attempts or child torture. This movie is great at never going very long at all without doing something or showing something to make you feel uncomfortable and back to being on edge again.
Some scenes near the beginning however, kind of jump around and feel a bit disjointed so the movie does have a little bit of a rough start. In one scene the main married couple are happy and laughing, but then in the very next scene, with no context for the change, they're eating supper in silence and she's short towards him and they're arguing. Luckily, as the movie goes on and we get to see her descent into madness, I feel that kinda stuff all worked great and was done perfectly, so it was really only in the first chunk of the movie that I noticed this kind of issue to the point where it was bothering me. But trust me, stick with the movie and get past that first chunk, and it's pretty smooth sailing for the rest.
At least until the end. Now, don't misunderstand me here, overall there's nothing specifically bad about the ending, and I did enjoy it (again, thanks in large part to both the fantastic musical score and the acting from the leads), I just found it really anti-climatic. There was a lot of build-up to what essentially ended up just being the main character sitting on the floor while we see a handful of flashbacks that gives us answers to the ghostly going-ons all movie. I would have preferred there be a bit more oomf to the grand finale.
James Cullen Bressack is one of those horror directors that I feel gets better with every movie. I've always enjoyed his movies on some level, even when I think they may not have been made all that well. However, every time I check out a new movie by him it seems he keeps improving over his previous one, and Bethany is no different. Sure, I admit I've got a few issues with it, but despite those issues this is still one hell of a creepy, unsettling, slick little horror B-Movie, and everyone involved should be proud of themselves.
If this is the kind of quality that Uncork'd plans to release from here on out than I'll easily be persuaded to be a fan of theirs.
8/10 rooms in the Psych Ward