August 19, 2017

Movie Review: Besetment

When I first approached watching Besetment, I had a question, probably one that I shouldn’t have before watching a movie. I guess, more than that, I probably should have had the answer before even getting this far. I blame the educational system. Anyway, I did not know what the title meant. What is besetment? Well, it is defined as to attack on all sides; assail; harass. With that cleared up, we can move onto the movie itself. It is another in a long line of direct to video, low budget outings that seek to execute an involving story made with very little money. It can be done, but it just seems to be be out of reach of so many. So far as this one is concerned, it has a lot going for it, but it just doesn’t quite take it all the way.

Besetment is the debut feature for writer/director Brad Douglas. He takes a stab at the creepy little town, where oddities and menace are seething barely hidden under the surface. The problem is that it straddles the line of dark comedy and actual horror while never fully committing one way or the other. The story is interesting, but it moves too quickly, while at the same time feels as if it is standing still. The movie clocks in at a mere 74-minutes and it clearly could have used a few more minutes to develop the character and story, to allow everything to land with a little more impact. Sure, it has a couple of uncomfortable moments, but it could have been more.

As I watched the story unfold, I felt like the writer/director watched a couple of better and more unsettling films and decided to try and give his own spin on it. It is not really a bad idea, where it fails is not on conception, but in execution. It feels like a mash up of the unlikely pair of Don’t Breathe and The Sinful Dwarf. I am sure you’ve heard of the first one, but the second, not so sure. The Sinful Dwarf is a sleazy, grimy exploitation picture that centers on a mother and son duo who run a hotel and often do things to and with the guests. If that sounds interesting to you, check out, just be warned that it is not for the faint of heart.

At the center of Besetment is Amanda Millard (Abby Wathen), she is unemployed and in desperate need to get a job. Her prayers are answered in the form of a resident maid at a hotel in a small, backwater Oregon town. It could not come a moment too soon for Amanda, she clearly needs to get away from her drunk of a mother. However, as good the job appears to be, it is not exactly in the best location. Everyone there just seems a little off. It is like they have been left back in time and the lack of access to more people has left them a little, shall we say, odd.

The hotel is run by the mother/son team of Mildred “Mille” Colvin (Marlyn Mason) and Billy Colvin (Michael Myer). Millie eagerly welcomes Amanda t the team. Still, things seem a bit off, despite their general friendliness, they have that “hick” element to them that is unsettling. Still, Amanda seems to fit right in, although she is wary of just about everyone she meets.

Of course, this is leading up to a defining moment where the relationships change and that underlying menace to take a more headlining role. When it does, it does get a little weird and more than a little uncomfortable. Still, the lack of actual character development and the questions that build around the veritable ghost town don’t allow it to fully take hold. I am not willing to give too much detail about what happens, should you sit down and watch it, you will be happier not to know it beforehand.

Besetment is a part of a good movie. I like what it was aiming to do, even if it lands wide of the mark. The acting is generally pretty decent, but a few more people to bounce things off of would have gone a long way to securing the authenticity of the town. Instead, it is left to flounder a bit, looking for the balance of story, character, and odd menace that never quite evens out. It is an admirable effort, although it fails to make the desired impact.

Besetment arrives on DVD September 5, 2017.

Mildly Recommended.

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