Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Uncork’d Entertainment for sending me a press release screener of the new Horror/Thriller film “Besetment”, Written and Directed by Brad Douglas. Besetment follows unemployed and down on her luck, Amanda Millard (played by Abby Wathen). Struggling with home life and her detached, alcoholic mother (Lindsae Klein), Amanda jumps at an offer of a hotel job in a small town in Oregon. The soft, kind owner, Mildred Colvin (played by Marlyn Mason) welcomes her with open arms, but all is not quite as it seems in the town of Mitchell. The film also stars Michael Meyer, Max Gutfreund, Douglas Rowe, Greg James, Hannah Barefoot and Sonya Davis. It’s always a nice surprise when I open my email to find a screener link that’s been sent to me for review, most of the time I’m doing the chasing so this was a nice change of pace. I hadn’t heard of Douglas prior to this film, or for that matter anything about Besetment (despite him having made a couple of other things). I’ve got a lot of Uncork’d film content, some of which has been quite impressive, So where does Besetment fit in that mix?
The first thing that stuck out to me was the quaint little town that Brad chose to be the primary location of the film. I’ve never been to Oregon but ever since Twin Peak’s (and more accurately), David Lynch’s humorous citing of Bend, I’ve had an interest in the place. Now I’ll assume “Mitchell” is a fictional name, but any who, the timber exteriors of the towns various establishments, the old signage and the dirt roads are just a few things that help illustrate the place being somewhat frozen in time. There were shades of Andy Palmer’s “Badlands of Kain” about Besetment and it’s town of Mitchell and I enjoyed that *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/badlands-of-kain-review/. Presented in a stylized neon light format, the films credits and understated forewarning of events is something rarely seen in a low-budget independent horror feature and I dug it. There’s a sentimental, 80’s inspired synth theme that complements the introduction and reminded me of several pieces of music in Adam Wingard’s “The Guest”. Although the film is quite synth heavy, there’s a couple of raw acoustic guitar pieces to accompany the more dramatic moments. Brad’s DP (director of photography), Chuck Greenwood handles the cinematography nicely. Everything is framed neatly and he opts for simple establishing shots to set the tone early, from there, gentle panning and wide shots are among the highlights. A couple of slick aerial shots of the town and its surroundings, along with Amanda driving in her car, help raise the overall production value. The audio levels are smooth and the soft lighting a clear contrast to an ever-growing instability. At just 76 minutes, Besetment never has a chance to wear out its welcome and that’s a wonderful thing. I can only hope that if nothing else, Douglas’s film becomes a cornerstone for fellow film makers to gauge their run time and pacing from because it often suffers in their work. You want to keep the viewer interested and if you try to stall, the more likely they’ll be to look for imperfections, lapses in continuity and other similar things to take issue with.
Brad’s cast were certainly a breath of fresh air and I quickly realized that none of the names were familiar to me (an indie horror aficionado), so I’m always interested to watch new actors/actresses. Abby’s a big part of the reason the film works. Amanda is a likeable young woman, but more importantly than that she’s a relatable one (we all know what it’s like to lack direction in life). Her performance was even and she delivered what was emotionally required for the role. The surprise packet here is definitely Marlyn Mason though. Dare I say it, but it’s rare to find an older actress in the genre these days who actually has the ability to sell you on a character. A big part of why Mason steals the show is due to Douglas’s clever writing and if I’m honest she puts Betsy Palmer (of Friday The 13th) to absolute shame. Outwardly, Mildred is the nice old lady next door. She brings you cool lemonade when you’re playing in the street, feeds you if you’re hungry, hell, she probably even attends bingo night (although I’m not sure that exists in this town). There’s nothing off kilter about her and that usually makes for a tricky balancing act for a writer, how much to give up and when to give it up. Ti West’s “The House Of The Devil” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/the-house-of-the-devil-review/ is as superb as it is because of how well he handled the family and their emergence. Same goes for Douglas with the Colvins. Meyer plays Billy, Mildred’s adult son who still lives with her. I think Meyer plays it fairly safe, though the character is a little cliché and he probably didn’t want to risk over doing it. The police (James and Barefoot) and fellow townspeople (Gutfreund and Rowe) are mostly secondary characters with limited screen time but each are believable enough in their respective roles. Besetment has some brief action sequences with practical effects but the bulk of it plays as more of a thriller than a slasher. With that said, there’s some nice plot twists thrown in for good measure.
From a technical point of view Besetment is extremely well presented. Aside from a couple of minor lapses in camera focus and a rather visible prosthetic piece that can be seen during the climax, there’s not too much to complain about. Most of the dialogue and interactions feel authentic but there’s a couple of bungled lines where the phrasing isn’t quite right. Mildred says to Amanda at one point, “Come and sign the paper forms” which just doesn’t sound right, obviously it should be “paperwork” instead. In the same vein, Amanda’s friend Brittany (Davis) says to her, “That will go down like a shit balloon” (or something to that effect). I’ve heard the saying “go down like a lead balloon” but the phrasing here just sounds wrong. The premise sets itself in motion pretty organically but I couldn’t help thinking surely Amanda would ask about some of the specifics of the job before just accepting it. In the beginning it’s revealed that she’s not really qualified for much, so I suppose there’s that argument. Though when you’re in a small town a ways from home, you’d think you’d want to know what’s really involved, so I found that a little convenient. There’s a few other details in the writing that I didn’t really care for, such as the structure of Amanda’s communication with Brad, the local cafe chef. Following the twosome’s first stiff encounter, which sees Amanda less than impressed with his advances, they’ve all of a sudden got a little thing developing. It felt as if no time had passed and a scene was missing in order to segue into that connection in a smoother way. The inner workings of the relationship between Mildred and Billy went further than I’d expected as well and it was perhaps a little heavy-handed (one scene comes to mind, no pun intended haha). I predicted some of Billy’s decision-making early on in regard to the situation and the final sequence of the film just felt shoehorned in to satisfy slasher fans, particularly those of sequels.
I went into Besetment knowing very little about it and in the end was pleasantly surprised with the result. It feels like a combination of Stephen King’s film adaption of “Misery” and Jim Lane’s independent film “Betrothed” with a touch of “Psycho” about it. I love the small town vibe and the pacing in regard to its character development and reveals. It’s well shot, sounds great and the score is a good mix of synth and acoustic ballads. The performances are solid and Douglas keeps his footing in a number of different genres as the film plays out. There’s a couple of minor technical issues, some patchy dialogue and a number of specifics I could take or leave, most notably the ending. Those things aside, Besetment is a thoroughly enjoyable and fast paced film that I can definitely recommend to fans of a good quick Horror/Thriller. It’s due to be released on VOD on June 6th and DVD in September. Check out the trailer below!
My rating for “Besetment” is 6.5/10