Directed by James Cullen Bressack.
Starring Shannen Doherty,Tom Green Stefanie Estes, Zack Ward, Keith Jardine, Leon Russom, and Felissa Rose.
After Claire’s mother dies, she and her husband move back to her childhood home only to have the abusive and traumatic memories of her mother come back and bring unrest into the house. Claire soon finds herself in a fog of past and present when her imaginary friend from childhood begins haunting her memories. What is this terrifying thing that is trying to reach out to her, and what does it want?
From prolific young film-maker, James Cullen Bressack, comes Bethany. For someone born in 1992 his credits list on IMDB is absolutely enormous. Since bursting onto the scene and making waves in the independent Horror circles, he seems to have worked non-stop in just about every department you can think of, but certainly has made a name for himself as a director. Bethany may well mark something of a turning point. A film Bressack at present insists is his best film, and his last horror film. Whether that remains the case in a career which is sure to last decades longer, we shall see.
But what of Bethany? This tells the story of a woman moving back to her childhood home. She’s haunted by memories of her abusive mother, and begins to recall foggy memories of a mysterious figure called Bethany who begins reaching out to her again, but what does she want?
So should Bressack bow out of the genre following Bethany? Well no. Clearly it’s a genre he has a lot of passion for, but more importantly an ability to approach with a little creativity, whereas all too often in Indie horror people are intent to just churn something out under the misplaced notion that horror is easy because you can shoot it for nothing and release it to a willing audience. Often the quality is secondary, but as far as Bressack is concerned, it’s clear a lot of thought has gone into Bethany. Films about deep rooted mother issues are of course nothing new to the genre and there are influences clear to see, but this has been made as well as he could possibly make it. The film, co-written by Bressack and the leading man, Zack Ward opts for a slow burn, deeply focused on the protagonist. This is where the film could potentially divide viewers.
Bethany is a slow burner. It’s psychologically focused as we see Claire (Stefanie Estes) begin to unravel as past and present collide. Visually it’s well shot. The atmospherics are good and Bressack slowly cranks up the more horrific elements. Those horror moments are mostly effective with some fantastic practical effects and gruesome imagery. Whether there are enough of these to satisfy horror fans who may be used to a little more extreme fare from the director, remains to be seen.
Estes gives a committed and emotional performance. Zack Ward is solid too, though his role is very much a support act. The more notable cast member is probably Shannen Doherty who plays the late Mother. Doherty’s reputation goes before her and whether there is any particular nod to that playing a queen bitch from hell, I couldn’t say (and no doubt the TMZ nature of Hollywood loves to exaggerate that reputation) but she’s brilliant in this. Her role is brief and intermittent but effective as I suppose, the Norma Bates of the piece. Elsewhere it’s odd to see Tom Green appear and act decidedly un-Tom Green (for the most part anyway). I still can’t help but think of him singing “daddy would you like some sausages” though.
The languid pace perhaps doesn’t have quite the depth required to overcome it, but regardless, when the more nightmarish imagery is unleashed on-screen it’s stomach churningly effective. Despite being a little too slow, and decidedly hit and miss, the ambition is commendable. Bethany is a solid horror film and technically accomplished throughout, from great photography (John DeFazio) to the melancholic and atmospheric score from Alex Csillag. The movie comes to a satisfying and surprisingly touching conclusion.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★