The screening of Bethany took place at the Musical Laemmle Theater in Beverly Hills on a recent spring evening in Los Angeles. James Cullen Bressack directed and wrote the film. For someone so young, he is immensely accomplished but has seemed destined to make films since childhood. In person, he is kind and a touch shy. Bursting upon the indie horror scene at the age of eighteen, with his first feature My Pure Joy, James Cullen Bressack has been called “horror’s new hope” (Studio City Patch – Mike Szymanski) as well as garnering rave reviews on almost every horror web site. His second feature, a real shocker, Hate Crime, was a festival favorite and garnered many awards. Then Bressack made history with his next feature, To Jennifer, which was the first feature film shot entirely on an IPhone 5. A winner of multiple Best Picture and Best director awards on the film festival circuit, James has become one of the few indie filmmakers Verified on Twitter, where he has 70,000 + loyal fans.
With Bethany, Brassack expressed how proud he is of this film and promised something quite different with a dramatic arch. He definitely made good on that promise.
Bethany is a moody and moving film that tells a story – a poignant one. Bressack has nailed the horror genre, but quite honestly, this film represents so much more than generic, gory special effects (although they are presented in a clever way). However, I admired that this movie consisted of psychological and dramatic thematic elements and left the audience thinking and asking questions versus leaving us scared to go to sleep.
For a touch of backstory, Bethany centers around Claire (played by the beautiful and talented Stefanie Estes) and her husband Aaron (Zach Ward) whom 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 focuses upon new and additional work, Claire finds herself in a fog of past and present with a mysterious figure haunting her memories. Who is also a small figure that is trying to reach out to her. Claire cannot let go of her and we are drawn in scene after scene.
The film also stars Tom Green as Dr. Brown, who plays Claire’s therapist. Appropriately, Shannen Doherty plays Claire’s abusive mom Susan (from past memories) and the ultimate “Queen B.” Shannen Doherty is absolutely haunting and fantastic in her role. At the Q and A, James explained how Doherty’s makeup was very illuminating within the film by using a specific color palette to recreate a “dreamy effect”, which added to Shannen’s scenes all always being taken place in the past. Anna Harr plays a dual role as both the child version of Claire, as well as Bethany and gives an impressive performance. The memories that Claire experiences of her childhood, with a mentally unstable and abusive mother plus the emotional pull of this small child reaching out to her (in present time) prompts the unraveling of Claire.
Honestly, I feel Estes carries the film throughout pulling us into her traumatic emotional whirlwind of trying to embrace the present, but constantly having her past thrown in. She takes the audience on an emotional journey. In contrast, to the jarring, emotional scenes are the simplicity of mundane life such as Aaron making Claire her daily tea to calm her down. Yet, you can sense that the supportive and stoic husband just wants Claire to hurry up and get over it. His indifference and denial seems to do more harm, and you just want to tell him to “snap out of it.”
Tom Green’s character also assists in controlling Claire’s emotions and not validating her. It is a refreshing change to see Greene in a more serious role, and the audience enjoyed it. Yet, Bressack makes you wonder if all this indifference between her husband and therapist, while Claire is going through traumatic past memories and figuring out who the tiny creature reaching out to her is lead to Claire becoming unhinged. After all, if someone doesn’t understand the consequences of emotional turmoil it can be crazy making – just like the scene where Claire is eating cereal that becomes filled with cockroaches that are big, crunchy and hard to look at. They really are there, right? This could be likened to Claire’s past; she cannot digest it.
Q and A
There are many unanswered questions within this film and the theme is basically about forging forward in one’s every day and mundane life while confronting past issues. The haunted memories that we all wish would just “go away”, but do not. We simply cannot escape our past family dynamic and must keep pulling forward as Claire eventually learns.
After the film there was an insightful Q and A (my favorite), and it was wonderful to listen to James, Stefanie and Anna talk about their individualistic thoughts on the film as the audience asked questions. All cast members expressed how wonderful it was to work with James. Overall, Bressack definitely saw Bethany as more of a dramatic piece, with messages of family issues that we all carry with us daily. He spoke about the importance of teamwork and his love for filmmaking. Bressack acknowledged the entire crew and how the cinematography (John DeFazio), special effects (Jerami Cruise) and music (Alex Csillag) added to the haunted film. Bethany has interesting twists and solid actors that leaves you wondering at the end.
Bressack plans to take a detour and leave the horror film genre for a while. He has since written an animated kids movie. I only expect Bressack to get better and better. Personally, I can’t wait.
Bethany Trailer #1 (2017) Horror Movie HD
To know more about James Cullen Bressack and Bethany:
Lizzy Collazos is a LA based writer who covers fashion, style and emerging artists. She is constantly sourcing and inspired by designers, artists and entertainers making their mark in an innovative way. “I see fashion and art as a beautiful form of self-expression and a way to tell a story.” "I love becoming immersed in a project and seeing it through fruition."She knows the LA scene well and currently contributed to The LA Fashion Magazine as well as LA-Story.com. Follow Lizzy Collazos on these social platforms.