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Bethany

4/7/2017, By: Frank Acosta – Horror movies are dime a dozen. Between the ones we flock to see which are released worldwide in theater chains to the ones we catch late at night on Netflix when there is nothing else to watch, it seems like we have seen it all now-a-days. We’ve become so desensitized that nothing really scares us. Then again, there’s a reason the same old cliche movies keep being produced month after month, year after year. Anything does and can still scare us. I managed to watch a film over the weekend which I assumed it would be another one of the run-of-the-mill, dime a dozen horror flicks but to my pleasant surprise, I was surprised quite pleasantly.

Bethany follows husband and wife; Aaron & Claire, respectively as they move back into her childhood home after she inherits said home after her mother’s death. Traumatic memories of her mother’s abuse return to haunt her as she slowly attempts to uncover the mystery of what lies within the walls of the house while attempting to keep her sanity.

As I said before, I wasn’t expecting much from this film and sometimes having no expectations for a movie is the best way to watch a movie point in case. The opening credits are very reminiscing of Stanley Kubrick’s epic infamous helicopter shot from The Shining and the music playing throughout was very Pan’s Labyrinth or even Crimson Peak-ish from acclaimed writer/director Guillermo Del Toro which garnered high praise from this little guy off the bat.

The movie starts off slow but that is exactly what is needed sometimes in order to build up a great foundation based on character and story development. Something that I loved about this film was that it didn’t rely heavily on what I call “Boo!” moments where the music cuts up the scare. One scene in particular was a bit gut wrenching and I suppose that was my fault for eating while watching. Without spoiling anything; watch out for that breakfast eating scene. Another one that had me squirming away was the piano playing scene. You’ll see what I mean when you view this film.

The movie is written and directed by James Cullen Bressack, who has made a name for himself in the horror game with features and shorts under his belt since 1992 . He’s had his toes dipped in the pool way before this film so he knows how to handle the subject matter at hand with grace.  It is also co-written by Zach Ward which many of you know but perhaps can’t place a face to the name. I know and love him when I first discovered him as Cristopher Titus’ younger brother in the Fox sitcom Titus. Apart from co-writing this flick he also stars as Aaron; Claire’s husband for those of you not keeping up.

The movie also casts Shannen Doherty who needs no introduction, come on people; Brenda? (that’s from Mallrats). She gives a fantastic performance as the strict obsessive mother that continues to haunt her even after death. A change of pace-casting to my surprise was Tom Green, who again if you grew up in the 90’s needs to introduction. He plays Dr. Brown to a very serious and well done note; something of an uncommon ground for the comic. Leading the cast is actress Stefanie Estes  who does a superb job of keeping her character as sane as possible as her world is questioning her sanity. I had a chance to interview  Stefanie to talk about the movie.

Slickster: Hi how are you doing Stefanie?

Stefanie Estes: I’m good, I’m good.

I know you have a busy schedule so I’ll keep this interview short.

Oh no worries.

Oh good. Well I had the pleasure of watching Bethany over this past weekend and I was pleasantly surprised. My main thing is horror, I love it. So when I watched this movie I ended up loving it. What made you take this role?

Well what struck me about the film initially was I loved that it had a complex female protagonist at it’s center who was dealing with things that I think a lot of people can relate to like dealing with our past, issues with our family, marital stresses. I really responded to that and then in terms of the film as a whole I loved how it sort of melded the supernatural and the psychological together. And that you don’t really…throughout the course of the film you can’t really tell the horror you’re experiencing is actually happening or a product of the protagonist sort of deteriorating mental state. And I’ve always respond to films that have a more psychological edge so I think that’s what initially attracted me to it.

Yeah and thats something that I loved about the film. That it wasn’t your traditional horror movie and it dealt with real life issues as you stated. 

Yes. I think finding the horror in the everyday you know? Like these emotional experiences that we go through can have horrific connotations if they’re not dealt with correctly.

And that’s what makes it scary. So was it easy for you to work with a collaborative director like James Cullen Bressack, but also to have the co-writer playing your husband? 

Yeah. Working with James was wonderful because he is such a collaborative director and he really put a lot of value in my interpretation of the character and we worked pretty closely in creating an approach to Claire that resonated with both of us, so he was great that way. And working with Zach, I hadn’t been asked about working with a co-writer before but yes it was a pleasant experience just because he was able to shed light when I had questions about particular issues with the script. He was open to a lot of rehearsals, a lot of talking about how I interpreted things and how perhaps he meant to write certain things when he wrote them. So it was a nice treat to be able to ask him someone who had a really comprehensive knowledge of much of the story and the characters that we were playing.

That’s so cool. Well you already mentioned working with Zach Ward, how was it working with Shannen Doherty, a 90’s household name [Beverly Hills 90210] but how was it especially working with Tom Green, another 90’s household name considering his background is more comedic than anything?

Yeah I thought he handled it fantastically. Working with Tom, I mean as a kid I loved watching The Tom Green Show, I thought he was just hilarious. But on set he was you know, very focused and really committed to delivering a more subdue performance I think. He was really invested in all the scenes and I will say that between takes, he’s just a naturally funny guy that he did provide some levity to another life, you know it’s a dark script so his presence was really nice and refreshing when he was on set because he is just so naturally funny and kooky as a person. And Shannen, unfortunately I don’t have a ton of scenes with her because she mainly appears in flashbacks but I mean I have been a fan of her for years and she is just once of those actors that the moment the camera starts rolling, you’re compelled to watch them. So it was really fun to get to work with someone of her caliber. So that was a bit of a thrill.

Now that you mention it, you are right. most of her scenes are in flashbacks and you were with her a few times. That’s how invested I was in the film that I really didn’t even notice. 

(laughs) Yeah, I mean think there are like two. James did a great job of sort of creating the flashbacks melt into reality in a way that is so seamless that you sort of forget that they’re actually flashbacks. So there were only two of them that I had the opportunity to work off of her as an actor but yeah those two times were thrilling for me.

That’s awesome. Now I have heard before that horror movies are fun to work on ironically because of the subject matter. Can you share any truth to that? How was it working on this set?

Well, I mean the subject matter was very dark and difficult BUT I will say that I had a lot of fun. Everyone was so professional and what I love about horror movies is that you get to, and in Bethany too, do really gross and disturbing practical effects. It’s kind of awesome to- I don’t know (laughs) spend the evening drenched in fake blood (laughs) and screaming your head off and get to wash it off at the end of the day and go home and have a normal dinner. Like I don’t know there’s something really fun about that. It’s a wonderful release and I think when-the group of people that were working on Bethany were so well versed in the horror genre that they brought like a level of knowledge to everything that was really fun to be around.

Right. It just seems like no other job would have those types of characteristics of being drenched in blood for a good portion of the day and you know after you just get to go home and live your normal life. 

Yeah (laughs) or you know, you’re reacting to-I don’t know, a ghostly hand that’s appeared from the wall. You know, it’s fun in that it’s such a departure from everyday life. And it’s fun that you get to work in this really heightened world and convey these heighten emotions but then you get to walk away from it at the end of the day which is the best part (laughs).

I can only imagine (laughs). Now I’ve noticed that you’ve done a couple of horror movies on your resume, what keeps you coming back to the horror genre?

Um. Well I think that we tap into a real visceral emotions that I think people naturally respond to. I think horror has a a great fanbase, a very loyal fanbase and I think horror is often times you know misconceived as people screaming and running away from a psycho killer or something like that. But there a lot of horror movies that are really, really good. They deal with themes that are really complex and interesting going back to like The Shining or Rosemary’s Baby. And even more recently like The Babadook or I just saw that movie Raw, like there are really interesting things you can explore through horror and using those visceral emotions you elicit to explore these sort of deeper themes that I think are interesting.

You’ve acted in numerous movies and Tv Shows, you’ve also produced and even written for a TV Series if I’m not mistaken, which one out of those three would you say you find more satisfying? Which one did you enjoy more?

I think I always enjoy acting the best honestly. Producing is very stressful and I’m still quite new to that and writing so I’m still cuttingly teeth in those professional realms. And I think i like acting the most ultimately, I think it’s sort of essential for this day and age to wear multiple hats so I’m trying my best to try those on those for size (laughs).

Well so far you’re doing great.

Oh thank you.

So why should people go out and see Bethany?

Well, going back to what we were talking about earlier, it’s a different kind of horror movie. It mixes in the supernatural and the psychological in what I think is a pretty exciting way. It has strong characters, it deals with some themes that I think will resonate with people and I think it has a really interesting twist, a revelation in the end that I hope people don’t see coming. It’s quite emotional and horrific and kind of stays with you.

I would agree 100%. Finally, my last question, what words of advice would you give to aspiring actors, actresses, writers and /or directors?

Trust in your voice.  To trust that it is worthy. Like I think we are all in a very tough business and there’s a lot of people who like to say no and like to make you feel like your less than but if you are compelled to create something then just keep at it. Your voice is important.

Thank you. 

My pleasure.

 

Bethany is playing in select cities and is available in VOD.

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06WWP3GW7?ref_=imdbref_tt_wbr_aiv&tag=imdbtag_tt_wbr_aiv-20

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/bethany/id1211500545

 

 

 

 

 

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