Bethany (2017) (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: ‘Bethany’ is a film of psychological and paranormal horror. A woman who had a painful childhood years before and who suffers from scary visions returns to live in the house she grew up in. She starts having increasingly violent hallucinations. While the film is tightly and tensely shot with some disturbing imagery, the script by actor Zack Ward and by James Cullen Bressack is not up to James Cullen Bressack’s directing. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

Claire (Stefanie Estes) had a particularly painful childhood dominated by her self-obsessed mother and with few friends. Her best friends were stuffed animals, some dolls and her imaginary friend, Bethany. She lived years in a big, dark, deadening house. Claire’s mother treated her as a possession. What happiness she had was playing with Bethany. But Claire broke free of her mother and of the house when Claire was eighteen.

In the following years, Claire married Aaron (Zack Ward) and buried her past until her mother died. Claire inherited her childhood home and decides to try to forget the past and return to living in the old house. When she feels depressed, which happens increasingly often, she can talk about it with the imaginary Bethany who still lives or perhaps lives again in the walls of the house. Bethany takes the form of whispers coming from the walls but this sort of friendship does not always work as fans of horror film know. Either Bethany or Claire has taken to arranging and causing accidents for Claire. Most fans of the horror film will have seen a lot of the ideas and mechanisms previously appearing in other films. For example, this film is being released just two weeks after Ed Gass-Donnelly’s horror film ‘Lavender,’ a film with which it has many plot parallels.

Bressack knows how to shoot the film without a reliance on false jump scenes or other ‘turn the crank’ ways to get a reaction from the audience. Bressack as director knows better than squander his viewers’ trust. He does have an eye for mood and colour. While the real world shown in naturalistic colour, the hallucinations are often reduced to heavy use of primary colours to give a dreamlike effect. In general, the film is well executed, but just lacks the creativity it needed from Bressack the writer to set itself apart from so many similar nightmare fests. I rate it a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.

‘Bethany’ will be released to theatres and On Demand on April 7.

Mark R. Leeper

© Mark R. Leeper 2017

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