Dir. James Cullen Bressack
Reviewer. Martyn Wakefield
Say what you like about independent director James Cullen Bressack, at the age of 25 has contributed more to the horror genre that many icons of the genre can only touch. Whether it be brutal neo Nazism of HATE CRIME or eastern ghost stories of PERNICIOUS, his films may have a tight budget and limited exposure to the masses but he really should be praised for his achievements.
This time round, events see a married couple, Claire (Stefanie Estes) and Aaron (Zack Ward) return home after the death of Claire’s mother. As the pair return to her childhood home, the sinister truths of her past life begin to manifest but untoward to the expected conclusion, the suspicions of Claire’s own mentality and understanding of the world around her come to play.
This is a Hollywood ghost story in the vain of THE PACT and THE CONJURING, one that amps its tension throughout but never overrides the powerful story that drives it.
BETHANY is Bressack’s 18th feature and highlights the growing talented of a young director. This time around, much like PERNICIOUS, the budget is used wisely and gone are the found footage shaky cams in favour for Argento-esque neon lighting and a more familiar structure to mainstream horror fans, showing that with a good budget and hard earned experience, Bressack is the genre’s new hope and one that begs for a bigger studio to intervene.
There are some questionable plot turns that plague the films emotional ending and it’s the performances of Estes and Anna Harr (playing a younger Claire) that hold this films credit. Even a turn from comedy legend Tom Green (love him or loathe him, his TV and film career was my childhood) is a quizzical casting but one that plays well in both Bressack and Greens favour. Unfortunately, Ward is the weak link here and no discredit to his role here but more as one of the co-writers in a film that has either missed some elements of its story or key moments placed with no consideration for their effect in the greater plot.
BETHANY is 80% a perfect horror movie for an American audience. Perfectly balancing tension, drama and even moments of uncomfortable squirming as Bressack’s trademark penchant for gruesome natured horror comes to play. Yet 20% is attributed to a script that leads to unneeded deaths and subsequent consequences that will leave you forgetting the drama left behind in favour of begging an answer as to what repercussions lie ahead. An all too convenient hospital scene furthers the plot but it's hard not to sit back and feel that this could have been so close to perfection which is much more frustrating to watch than any film that is naturally bad.