– By Dave Dubrow
The title of the indie horror flick BESETMENT brings to mind French existentialist films from the 1960’s: long, dreary, bloodless affairs that only people who are paid to like them can say anything nice about. Indeed, whenever I see the title myself I pronounce it “bay-set-MON” in my head to give it that soupcon of elegance.
Unfortunately, I must report that the unusual title and the mouth-sewn-shut movie poster are the best parts of the movie, and they’re not that great, either.
In it, hapless, penniless protagonist Amanda takes a job as a caretaker/maid of a hotel in an out-of-the-way town in rural Oregon, is subjected to horrific tortures, and fights to survive. Sort of. Because the story depends on a combination of idiocy on the part of the characters, amazing coincidence, and a somewhat anticlimactic finale, much of the movie’s events are muddled. Except for the murders. Those were pretty clear.
The first half of the film moves with terrible slowness, making it an excellent cure for insomnia. Once Amanda awakens to find herself tied to the bed things pick up a bit, but the most disturbing scenes are either portrayed as flashbacks or not shown at all, like Amanda’s mouth getting sewn shut. I know this is a low-budget film, but there had to have been a way to show us at least a little bit of it. The aftermath was kind of horrible, but it ended up looking like duck-face, which was a bit of a problem.
Marlyn Mason did a tremendous, scene-chewing job as Millie, the owner of the hotel and the movie’s antagonist. She went from sweet old lady to monstrous harpy in an eyeblink, and managed to make both roles believable, despite some of the things the story made her do. Like sew somebody’s mouth shut. Or demand the local pastor preside over a shotgun wedding for her mentally deficient son, sans shotgun.
The rest of the performances were par for the micro-budget indie course, along with the uneven tone (some moments of comedy like the pastor/plumber pulling a clot of hair from a period blood-clogged shower and a brief scene of Millie running into the bedroom to hit someone in the head with a frying pan) and the occasional crewmember caught on film.
If you’re a fan of movies in which young women are abused and brutalized by older women, Besetment is your film, and I encourage you to go see it. For me, it was a miss. The best thing I can say about it is that the filmmakers tried very hard.