‘You can’t scream if you can’t open your mouth’
Besetment is a 2017 American horror film written, produced and directed by Brad Douglas (Flipped; Between the Trees).
Desperate for a job, Amanda Millard (Abby Wathen) takes a maid position at the Oregon Hotel in the creepy, back country town of Mitchell, Oregon.
Owners Mildred Colvin (Marlyn Mason) and her son Billy (Michael Meyer) seem nice enough at first. However, once Amanda discovers their real intentions, a struggle to make a living turns into a fight for her life…
Brad Douglas’ Besetment convincingly depicts a financially desperate young woman’s descent into small town Hell; in this case, Mitchell in Oregon.
Well-filmed and well-acted by all, the film initially captures the true life horrors of unemployment, parental separation and alcoholism as Amanda (well-portrayed by Abby Wathen), foolishly places her trust in another older woman, creepy Mildred (Marlyn Mason), to escape her own “bitch” mother. So far, so mildly worrying.
Unfortunately, having set up a potentially sick situation – upon which it would be unfair to elaborate too much further (though promotional artwork already gives some of the game away) writer-director Brad Douglas squanders the full impact many of the horrific elements simply by denying them the full dramatic delivery they demand. There are some unpleasant things to come (ahem), for sure, but the overall ambiance remains placidly polite. Or even obliquely comic even during an incestuous scene that should be deeply disturbing.
For example, during a key moment when Amanda is trying to gain sad soul Billy’s empathy, his domineering mother suddenly appears and buffs their victim over the head… with a frying pan. End of. A dramatic moment lost and straight onto the next scene. Equally, the suddenness of Amanda’s mouth being sewn shut – a major development, surely? – is presented as matter of fact, once it’s occurred, next day.
Meanwhile, the understated synth score by Graham Denman and Kyle Hnedak is just that. Upping it in the mix would have given the movie more verve.
Finally, there is some nicely judged black humour that works well, such as a pastor who is also the local plumber, a sheriff that can’t remember any emergency codes and Amanda’s assertion that “I’m either giving birth to the new messiah or that doctor’s full of shit!” In this spirit, the doomy denouement is perhaps expected yet welcome in the EC Comics vein of what goes around comes around.
Besetment is well worth anyone’s time and comes recommended simply for how well its presented. It’s just a shame that the horror elements aren’t ramped up as well as they might be. Perhaps this was Douglas’ intention? If so, it seems a slightly wasted opportunity.
Adrian J Smith, Horrorpedia
“Besetment is a clever little film that, even though one gets the premise pretty quickly, makes the most out of its basic situation and manages to surprise one with some unexpected twists and turns, plus the movie’s pretty brilliant in creating suspense as well, and all the visceral parts are in all the right places to really shock the audience when needed. And add to that a strong cast, and you’ve got a very cool thriller.” Mike Haberfelner, Search My Trash
“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.” Andrew Buckner, A Word of Dreams
“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.” Adam the Movie God
” …Mitchell could have been made into a northern equivalent of the creepy southern towns that dominate the genre. But with a small budget perhaps it was a better idea to stay with the short run time and the focus on the three main characters. I also could have done without the final “shock” at the end, it’s not needed and feels very out of place. Apart from that however this is a very well done film that will satisfy the fans.” Jim Morazzini, Beneath the Underground
Abby Wathen (Eye of the Paranoid), Marlyn Mason (Between the Trees), Michael Meyer (Beach Blanket Frankenstein; Vampire Camp; My Name is Bruce), Max Gutfreund, Greg James, Hannah Barefoot, Lindsae Klein, Douglas Rowe, Sonya Davis, John T. Woods, Hugh Reed, Olivia Jane Catmull, Liam O’Sruitheain, Tanner McCullough, Ed Simper.
The film has been picked up for distribution in North America by Uncork’d Entertainment. A DVD release is scheduled for 5 September 2017.
Bend and Mitchell, Oregon, USA