Bethany Image

Bethany

By Bobby LePire | December 21, 2021

While most folks know Zack Ward for his bigger roles, such as the Resident Evil franchise, he is directly responsible for my love Sci-Fi Channel films (if you haven’t seen Battle Planet, check it out!). So, what happens when he co-writes a horror feature with the constantly working James Cullen Bressack? The result, Bethany, is a tightly wound fright fest, a substantial character study, and a deep exploration of challenging themes.

 Aaron (Zack Ward) and Claire (Stefanie Estes) have just moved into her childhood home, as Claire inherited it after her mother’s passing. While the husband and wife love each other very much, returning to this house messes with her already delicate psyche.

“…returning to this house messes with her already delicate psyche.”

When Claire was a young girl (Anna Harr), her mother, Susan (Shannen Doherty), was very demanding and abusive. She forced her child into beauty pageants and would hit Claire if her make-up and the like were not perfect. Her only solace came from her imaginary friend, Bethany (also played by Harr). Being surrounded by all these bad memories has Claire enacting things she does not recall and attempting to kill herself.

The most impressive aspect of Bethany is the themes it explores. See, Claire and Aaron want to have a baby, but each major act of self-harm she commits makes it that much harder. Stemming from her troubled childhood, the things Claire does are a manifestation of her fear of being a terrible parent, just like her mother. It’s a profound read into the anxieties and fears of would-be parents. It’s also a stark look at the scars left from a traumatic childhood. Just because one thinks they’ve healed or been able to move on doesn’t mean that they truly are.

These themes resonant so much because the characters are so well-written. No matter how extreme Claire gets, Aaron continually proclaims his love for her. While his backstory isn’t as drawn-out, it is immediately clear what Aaron gets out of the relationship. This is crucial, otherwise, all watching would be curious why Aaron stays with Claire the whole time. The supporting players are just as strong. Susan’s overbearing attitude and anger are on full display from her first scene, brilliantly setting the stakes.

Bethany (2017)

Directed: James Cullen Bressack

Written: James Cullen Bressack, Zack Ward

Starring: Stefanie Estes, Zack Ward, Shannen Doherty, Anna Harr, Tom Green, etc.

Movie score: 9.5/10

Bethany Image

"…wishes to say something about past trauma and how they can latently manifest..."

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