Synopsis: 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. What is this small figure that is trying to reach out to her, and what does it want?
Release Date: April 7, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Bethany is about a young woman named Claire Mason (Stephanie Estes from The Bunnyman Massacre) who inherits her childhood home when her mother passes away. Claire’s husband, Aaron (Zack Ward, best known as the bully Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story), loves the idea of living in the house, but as soon as the couple arrives, Claire is haunted by memories of her abusive mother (Shannen Doherty from “Beverly Hills, 90210”) and her creepy imaginary friend, Bethany. When the visions get more and more realistic, Claire is forced to confront the fact that it may not all be inside her head.
Written by James Cullen Bressack (who also directs) and Zack Ward, Bethany is one of those low-rent horror movies that seems as if it was culled together from bits and pieces of other movies. It would be an engaging concept, if the whole thing wasn’t so overly familiar. The big twist reveal at the conclusion has even been done – and done better – by a popular recent movie from the last couple of years (for the sake of not spoiling it, the ripped-off movie shall remain nameless, but for the curious, it’s this one). Bethany is a cheap knock-off, an on-the-nose imitation of nothing in particular, if that makes any sense.
Bethany could have been saved, though. The more engaging story in the film is the one that takes place through flashbacks, the story of Claire’s relationship with her mother and the abuse and neglect that she suffered as a child. It’s not exactly Mommie Dearest, but it is disturbing enough to warrant more screen time, and had Bethany explored that angle a little more, it would have been a very different movie. Not necessarily any scarier, but definitely sadder, and more intriguing.
Someday, Bethany will hit Netflix or Amazon Prime and will be viewable for “free,” and in that case, it’s worth the hour and a half it takes to check out…as long as there’s not a better movie available.
Just like everything else in Bethany, the scares are all very familiar. It’s what is often jokingly referred to as a “Kitchen Sink” movie, meaning everything including the kitchen sink is in it. Claire sits down to play the piano, she breaks a nail in an extreme close up – ah, cringey. A bowl of breakfast cereal turns into a swarm of insects – whoa, trippy. Claire finds a creepy doll in the house – ooh, spooky. All of the attempted scares are built upon the James Wan formula of slowly building musical crescendos followed by a moment of silence, then a loud NOISE that makes the audience jump. Except, James Cullen Bressack is no James Wan, and the scares are nowhere near as effective.
There is one genuinely freaky moment in Bethany where Claire is looking at herself in a mirror and her face turns to liquid. It’s a cool effect, and could have generated some real fear if the whole thing weren’t ruined by a weird anti-climactic creepy doll mask thing at the end. The one potentially horrifying moment in the movie is spoiled by being played as a stereotypical modern horror trope.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): James Cullen Bressack
- Producer(s): James Cullen BressackShannen DohertyKenneth GustShahen JordanShant JOrdanAce UnderhillZack Ward
- Screenwriter(s): James Cullen BressackZack Ward
- Cast: Stephanie Estes (Claire)Zack Ward (Aaron)Tom Green (Dr. Brown) Shannen Doherty (Susan)Anna Harr (Bethany/Young Claire)Leon Russom (Doctor Merman)Kevin Porter (Nurse Foster)Keith Jardine (Harrison)Felissa Rose (Janice the Realtor)
- Editor(s): Bobby K. Richardson
- Cinematographer: John DeFazio
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Alycia Belle
- Casting Director(s): James Cullen Bressack
- Music Score: Alex Csillag
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA