Bethany in theaters

bethany-key-art-flatBETHANY (2017)
Uncork’d Entertainment.
Genre: Horror
Director: James Cullen Bressack
Screenplay: James Cullen Bressack, Zack Ward
Starring: Stefanie Estes, Zack Ward, Tom Green, Shannen Doherty

IN THEATERS & ON DEMAND APRIL 7th

Tom Green (Road Trip, Freddy got Fingered) and Shannen Doherty (Charmed, Beverly Hills 90210) star in the spine-chilling Bethany, from acclaimed filmmaker James Cullen Bressack (Pernicious, To Jennifer), in theaters and On Demand this April.

Synopsis: 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?

Review: Rusty Ryan

I fully expected to brush off James Cullen Bressack’s latest film, Bethany, but I was pleasantly surprised. After all, the director had previously given us the horror genre mess Pernicious, but if you are willing to give this creepy little charmer a chance, you might feel the payoff also.

The film centers around young couple Claire (Stefanie Estes) and Aaron (Zack Ward). We learn that the Claire has led a life haunted by a dysfunctional childhood and her own attempted suicide. Her mother dies and she is willed her childhood home. As a means of a fresh start, the couple moves into the house that was part of Claire’s childhood. Of course, her presence in the house brings up painful memories of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother (Shannen Doherty). It does not help that she is constantly left alone due to her husband’s work schedule. Disturbing memories, dreams and occurrences make it increasingly obvious that something is not right. We are left wondering if the cause of these events are because of Claire’s fragile psyche or something supernatural in the house.

The film is a slow burn, especially at the beginning, but it picks up and becomes an effective and creepy tale. The performances are solid by Estes and Ward. Stephanie Estes emotes lots of torment through her facial expressions and Zack Ward shows sincere concern for the mental and possibly physical demons his wife is fighting.
You will need to get past the “I’ve seen this guy before” moment when you first see Ward on the screen. As a young actor, he played everyone’s favorite red-headed bully: Scut Farkus in 1983’s A Christmas Story. Ward is a good, believable actor dealing with forces he cannot control or understand. He also co-wrote the screenplay with Bressack.

On the plus side, the camera work and lighting by Cinematographer John DeFazio are good and he excels with interesting transition shots. You can tell thought was put into the scene and location changes throughout the movie. Many of the creepier scenes are lit by using different accent colors. It’s not blatant, but just enough to keep you a little off-balance and wonder if what Claire is experiencing is real or in her mind. Thankfully, there are no cheesy “jump scares”. Shannen Doherty gives a solid performance as a truly messed-up mom and Tom Green plays it straight-forward and serious as a psychiatrist concerned about the couple.

The movie is not without it’s faults. There are some glaring logic and continuity challenges. Most of the special effects are practical and well done. There are, however, a few CGI effects that are very obvious and out of place. You can also file a few of the pivotal reveal scenes in the category of “I’ve seen this before”. But in the end, they still work and you get a satisfying horror film if you give it a chance.

2 1/2 of 4 stars.