Review: Bethany

This week Scream King Tom shares his thoughts on Bethany, the newest offering from James Cullen Bressack.

Twenty-something couple Claire (Stefanie Estes) and Aaron (Zach Ward) are having relationship problems. Troubles getting pregnant and lingering issues with an abusive childhood are compounded when they return to Claire’s childhood home, after the death of her obsessed with beauty mother (Shannon Doherty), and strange happenings and hallucinations begin to further strain things.

Director James Cullen Bressack’s (“Hate Crime”, “My Pure Joy”) self proclaimed final foray into horror, “Bethany”, boasts a script that is an amalgamation of virtually every plot point of every PG-13 genre film from the last decade. It’s all here: haunted house, creepy child ghost, hidden passages, gorily over the top hallucinations, the may-or- may-not- be-insane female lead...all very familiar things. But, like the trooper he apparently is, Bressack rolls up his sleeves and gets to work using some terrific direction and a superb cast to craft an emotionally wrenching, slow build horror film.

Estes and Ward both chew up the screen with solid, inspired performances, Claire’s descent into madness is as convincing as any, and Ward is a natural as her mainly supportive spouse. A surprisingly excellent dramatic turn from comedic whack-job Tom Green as a psychiatrist (!) is a casting coup out of left field fleshes out a talented support team, and there’s even a couple of cameo parts by UFC vet Keith Jardine and horror legend Felissa Rose. The real star here, however, is Bressack. With the skill of a cinematic alchemist, he turns a sometimes leaden story into Hitchcockian gold. Tension, suspense, and fluid pacing all serve to compliment the “modern-Gothic” feel of “Bethany”. There’s even a little social commentary about the price of beauty thrown in.

Bressack always seems to bookend his micro-budget gems with larger productions like this, and more often than not, succeeds in not only producing thought provoking films, but entertaining ones as well. If this is indeed his genre swan song, he definitely left us wishing for more, “Bethany” delivers the goods.