Tag Archives: Bethany

2017 in Review – February

deadshot

“Y’all jokers must be crazy.”

February. Awards month. This second diary entry starts with a list of Oscar nominated films I would love to get through before the awards ceremony on the last Sunday of the month. Try as I might, I don’t have the time nor energy to travel up and down the country to obscure little picturehouses to watch three hour French films about the government’s war on Brussels sprouts (I don’t know what any of these films are about. Call that an educated guess) so that pipe dream was never going to be doable.

Maybe that’s a tick list for next year. One challenge at a time. Maybe next year will be the year I watch every single nominated film. For now, it’s all about these 365 films I have to watch. So…


the martian 2015Week One

The first week felt pretty busy when it came to films. More blind luck than organisation, the month started by knocking another film of the blu-ray pile of shame; The Martian‘s extended cut burned through our evening on day one. I honestly forgot how good that film was.

The three year old’s journey through the MCU continued with Iron Man 2 on the same night we bought foreign film Oscar nom A Man Called Ove. The Saturday of the Failed Critics Pubcast gave me train time for a first watch of 1984’s Bad Taste and a repeat visit to Luc Besson’s Lucy. A family trip for the excellent Lego Batman Movie, followed by the pretty rubbish Gold was how that Sunday started. Rounded it off with the traditional yearly watch of Any Given Sunday.

Early February ended a bit of a mixed bag. The hopefully final but surprisingly fun Resident Evil movie was certainly better than the first Schumacher Batman that I somehow ended up watching. But with the last films of the week being the great Hidden Figures and the sublime Gone Baby Gone, things were looking up.


mad-max-chromeWeek Two

In my misguided attempt to watch all the Oscar nominated films, I forced myself through a couple of horrendous films to start week two. Michael Bay’s Stars and Stripes masturbatory fantasy that is 13 Hours may be one of the worst things I’ve ever seen. Followed by the promising, but overall sleep inducing Passengers felt like the worst way to continue this challenge. Luckily, the newly released “Definitive Directors Cut” of Heat was enough to cleanse the palette.

The next few days was a mix of first watches and old favourites. John Wick and Training Day filling the quota of films we’d seen before; while new films were covered by The Girl With All The Gifts and Fences. All superb choices, if I do say so myself. The bizarre documentary Beware the Slenderman was our Saturday night viewing this week. Four films on the Sunday filled in my numbers nicely, I finished off the weekend with the beautiful, boner inducing “Black and Chrome” cut of Mad Max: Fury Road.

Luckily, work was quiet as this week carried on. An empty office and a stack of paperwork meant iTunes films to pass the time. A couple of films at work, the original Jungle Book with the kid when I got home and I ended the week with an early contender for film of the year, John Wick: Chapter 2.


DEADPOOLWeek Three

More films at work mean that by the time we are watching Leon that evening – another from the Pile of Shame – I’ve added three more to the list. Revisiting last year’s War on Everyone, along with an impromptu Paranorman watch and rewatching Antoine Fuqua’s Shooter meant my list had a diverse selection being added.

Excellent espionage thriller/comic book film Captain America: The Winter Soldier and The Founder clocked in at numbers 98 and 99 on my spreadsheet. Leaving space for something special for the next milestone. Film 100 was the first watch of this year, the seventeenth since the film came out almost a year ago to the day. Film 100 was the one, the only, Deadpool.

A couple of animated films, that included the surreal but fun A Cat in Paris brought up the rear for the most part this week. I also managed to get my sticky hands on a review screener for the latest film from one of my favourite directors to end this week. If you ever get the chance, you should definitely watch James Cullen Bressack’s Bethany.


nuns-with-gunsWeek Four

The month begins to come to a close. The original cut of Mad Max: Fury Road kicks things off (yes, a different cut is a different film. My challenge, my rules). Peter Berg’s Patriots Day and Gore Verbinski’s A Cure For Wellness meant the week had an up and down middle section. You can hear me wax lyrical about both on the Oscar fallout podcast. This week also saw us dig into one of the worst films we have ever seen; Nude Nuns with Big Guns is just as award worthy as you think it is.

Loads of films with the kid this week, too. On request, we saw three, THREE, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movies. The two recent ones and the original 1990 version. Creepy, rapey Michelangelo aside, they ain’t the worst movies in the world. And she loved them, that’s all that matters. It’s the same reason I sat through the Angry Birds Movie again! Luckily, she didn’t watch our final one of that weekend, we watched the dug in to The Greasy Strangler. Just… wow.

Finally, after weeks of joking around about how ridiculous it is that we could live in a world where Suicide Squad won an academy award, it actually happened. So a rewatch of the film I loved that everyone else despised; the Oscar winning Suicide Squad. Then, as I write this, I’m in my seat at the local IMAX waiting for the premiere of Logan to begin. And thanks to Fox’s brilliant marketing ploy to show it at 10.23pm, it still counts as a February film. And much like last month, the second I turn this in, it’s onto writing the review.

This is getting tiring. But at this point, I’ve done more than half of the number I totalled last year. That can’t be bad.

Two months in the bag. Only ten to go.

Films seen this month: 54

Current count, as of 28th of February: 114 of 365.

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Bethany

“Beauty is just so brief.”

Haunted house horror can often be a procedural affair. I’ve sat through far too many that follow the exact same blueprint as the last two-dozen and don’t do anything to mix things up. You’re left with nothing but a tick-sheet of predictable horror to endure.

I’ll be honest, as much as I am a fan of indie horror director James Cullen Bressack, and as much as I’ve loved most of his films, I went into Bethany with some concerns that I was in for another paint-by-numbers horror with nothing to make it stand out from the crowd. Not because I don’t think Bressack has it in him to do something different; but because as a true student of the genre, he would be forgiven (kinda) for following the subgenre’s guiding principles for his first haunted house flick.

Still, I’m not a prideful guy. I can admit when I’m wrong. And I can admit when I absolutely should have had faith in the filmmaker that I’ve always had faith in before, and not doubted his skill.

Moving back into her childhood home after her mother has died, Claire (Stephanie Estes) and her husband Aaron (Zack Ward) are hoping to leave a chaotic and traumatic past behind them. What should be a separation from the world that’s done them more harm than good quickly becomes an abject lesson in how to forcefully revisit a childhood that scarred you for life.

Now, Claire is living in the house she once shared as a child with her beauty obsessed mother (Shannon Doherty) and her younger years are, quite literally, coming back to haunt her.

Claire grew up with her best and only friend Bethany; a figment of her imagination, a ghost in the walls that kept her company when her abusive mother went off the rails. Now she’s back home, Bethany appears to be looking for company again. Aaron and his tormented wife are going to need to work out what she wants and how to appease her before the now bitter and vengeful spirit gets the better of them.

Ok, so it’s not totally original and it does sound like a lot of indie horror you’ve already seen. But that’s not to say that it is the same as all the dried up old shit that populates the bottom row of the Netflix horror section. On the contrary, to call this simply a horror movie would be to do it a real disservice. Bethany dances a line between traditional horror and psychological thriller; and it’s a line that that so many have failed to conquer before. It’s a tough genre to crack because you need to be able to build an atmosphere that convinces your audience that this is something that could affect them. It has to not just be believable, but it has to be something that plays on the deepest fears of anyone witness to it. Ghosts in the walls should do the trick, huh?

Bressack has done himself a world of good by getting a good writing partner. Teaming up again with Zack Ward for the screenplay has brought a tightly scripted story with very little in the way of throw-away dialogue or fat that can be cut away.

Last year, the pair wrote Ward’s feature directorial debut together, Restoration; a decent flick that proved the duo could script a film together and it not be complete rubbish. With Bethany this writing team have definitely found their flow and they have worked hard to make sure that every time you think you know what’s coming, you’re usually wrong.

And that’s where Bethany really shines.

You would be forgiven for thinking you were walking into a predictable, run-of-the-mill horror, because that’s just what we’ve come to expect from so much of the genre nowadays. From the smallest indie to the biggest Blumhouse production, we’re just conditioned to expect aggressive blandness when it comes to modern horror. Thank god for people like Bressack and Ward trying to inject something a little different into these films.

It’s not necessarily success you need when you try something different; you simply need to have attempted to shake things up. As quickly as every trope is rolled out (let’s say, oh, I don’t know, steamy mirrors on bathroom cabinets that you can open) and you’re positive something is gonna jump out behind you, Bressack calls your bluff and does something completely left-field and creeps the shit out of you instead. It’s a genuine breath of fresh air to not be able to guess what’s coming.

As you get towards the end of this tight 90 minutes, as the last card is flipped over and the reveal you’ve been biting your nails to get to arrives, it is an honest-to-goodness “holy shit” moment that’s as strong a horror reveal as it is an emotional gut punch. It’s at that point that you realise just how much of a personally resonating story this must have been for the man behind the camera.

It just feels like a lot of love and effort went into the creation of Bethany; it feels like James Cullen Bressack is trying to carve out a little piece of horror to make his own and it feels like this director (that I’ve been championing for so long) may have made the film that gets him known in far wider circles.

I can only hope.