By Andrew Buckner
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****.
Besetment (2017), from writer-director Brad Douglas, is a lean and ultimately potent horror concoction. The seventy-four-minute picture begins as a triumphant homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s quintessential psychological thriller, Psycho (1960). We note this in the relationship our antagonist, Billy Colvin (in a simultaneously tense and vulnerable, ruggedly enthralling performance from Michael Meyer), has with his domineering and equally wicked mother, Mildred (in a phenomenal portrayal from Marlyn Mason). Much of the plot, which revolves around a young woman, Amanda Millard (in a top-notch representation from Abby Wathen), who takes a job at The Oregon Hotel and later comes up missing, echoes this aforesaid similarity. Not to mention, it is even spied in one of the most quietly clever moments in the fiction. Such an arrangement arrives at nineteen minutes into the story. This sequence involves what looks like a bloody fluid building around the drain of a shower. For those who vividly recall the murder of Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) by Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) in the previously stated Hitchcock classic, especially the closing shot, Douglas’ sequence serves as an equally smart and smirk-inducing parallel. It also fits effortlessly into the context of the story.
Such a comparison is strongly tailored until nearly the conclusion of the intriguing, if exposition heavy, first half of the movie. Once the tension becomes more palpable and the thriller elements kick into full gear, Douglas’ endeavor establishes a tone that is more along the likes of Deliverance (1972), Wolf Creek (2008) and Kevin Connor’s darkly comic cult classic, Motel Hell (1980). Yet, Douglas’ exertion has the most in common with Jim Lane’s recent gem, Betrothed (2016). This is most noteworthy once the Colvins’ intentions towards Amanda are exposed.
When this occurs, the undertaking is partially held back by the familiarity that propels the events of the last forty minutes. Furthermore, one of the most pivotal arrangements in the undertaking, which is set in a church, is too brief to be as effective as possible. Regardless, the succession that is placed immediately after this instant, which serves as an epilogue, is perfectly chill-inducing. It also garners further points for being comparable to the commencement of John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978). Such more than makes up for the prior addressed shortcomings. Additionally, the film is consistently well-made and engaging. This formerly stated stretch also includes several episodes that are as steeped in tradition as they are memorable. The same can be said of the terrifically developed characterizations. This is most readily noted in a pair who find themselves attempting to solve the mystery of Amanda’s disappearance. They are Sheriff Joe Palin (Greg James) and Deputy Julie Nelson (Hannah Barefoot). Yet, the caliber of their depictions, sheer likability and on-screen chemistry with one another illuminate the configurations they reside within.
From a technical standpoint, Douglas’ scripting and general management of the project is skillful and captivating. Such high-quality capabilities evoke a foundation for the labor that is as gritty as it is deftly executed. Compatibly, the dialogue is credible. The actions of both the protagonist and antagonist also logically derive from the situations Douglas introduces into the tale. Best of all, Douglas just as organically builds continual suspense and audience interest. He also incorporates a masterful pace that unveils in a gradual and even fashion. These are all certainly necessary ingredients in crafting the unyielding credibility that radiates from Douglas’ undertaking.
This Barbed Wire Films co-production also sports spectacular, wonderfully claustrophobic cinematography from Chuck Greenwood. The veneer in Douglas’ latest calls to mind Daniel Pearl’s masterful work in Tobe Hooper’s groundbreaker, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974). Such a look, commonly attempted in grindhouse evocative exertions such as this, is more than suitable for the material. Likewise, Graham Denman and Kyle Hnedak’s music is impressive and atmospheric. The effects, sound and makeup department offer a similarly exceptional contribution.
Such results in a taut, tough genre entry. This is even if the twists in the narrative are hit and miss. Still, the general prowess of the piece keeps the movie ever-admirable. The 1970’s B-movie sensibility that courses throughout the totality also adds a consistently old-fashioned charm. This is an appeal that fellow cinephiles will certainly adore. What augments the strength of this factor is Douglas’ spellbinding construction of the terror elements. The outcome is a thoroughly solid and satisfying genre outing. Douglas’ exercise in fear is far above average.
Besetment releases on video on demand on June 6th, 2017 through Uncork’d Entertainment. It will be available on DVD on September 5th.