I’m going to start my review of Besetment with the definition of the title, because I don’t think I’m the only one who hasn’t a single clue what that means. Besetment means ‘to attack on all sides,’ which is a fitting representation of this new feature film from Brad Douglas. Serving as his directorial debut, Besetment follows a young woman who’s getting hammered on emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually and even financially. Amanda (The Bay‘s Abby Wathen) has fallen on hard times and she’s unable to find employment. When an opportunity falls into her lap, she takes a job at a sleepy hotel in a small town without a moment of hesitation. This, however, proves to be her downfall as she quickly discovers the other tenants and the owners of the establishment are a bunch of lunatics. Wathen, Marlyn Mason, Michael Meyer, Max Gutfreund, Greg James, Hanna Barefoot, Critters 2‘s Douglas Rowe, Lindsae Klein and Sonya Davis star in this psychological horror-thriller also written and produced by Brad Douglas.
I’ll get this out of the way second, because I know some of you won’t stick around until the end of my review. Besetment is amazing for one very important reason, one you may have seen on an FX series from Ryan Murphy that recently ended its first season run. It’s a little subgenre called hagsploitation or psycho-biddy. It’s an underrated subcategory in horror started in 1962 by the wild success of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and continued to be pushed into prominence in following years by Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Hagsploitation films follow beautiful, seemingly harmless older women who go bat shit crazy and go on psychotic rampages of murder and mayhem. While the subgenre died out by the 70’s, remnants of it can still be seen in films like Friday the 13th, Carrie, Dark Touch, The Woman and The Babadook. I was absolutely thrilled to see and I’m very happy to say that Besetment brings the psycho-biddy/hagsploitation genre back to horror viewers in 2017. It’s a very slow burn kind of atmosphere, more psychological than in your face gory, but it’s a style that will bring out feelings of nostalgia to old school horror fans.
And that’s what makes Besetment great. It explores elements not typically covered in the media – like the sex lives of older people – while also discussing the true horrors of the world we live in; namely the fact that we work and work until we die. This was a risk for the film-makers here and it paid off! Making Amanda a single woman without a job is such a relate-able plot because that’s a struggle that millions of Americans are going through right now. Millions of people can relate to that desperation and the mental torture of not knowing where your next rent check will come from. It’s definitely the emotional pull that’ll reel people into this movie and the trouble that she encounters shortly after her job begins will be what keeps them interested. Again, Besetment is a slow burn type of movie. It’s raunchy but never over-sexualized. It’s got a couple scenes of gore but it’s not a splatterfest. It’s a mental game of cat-and-mouse, biding one’s time before striking but the game never declares a winner. It’s got that high quality independent feel that exploratory cinema viewers will enjoy… and it’s another indication that small towns filled with strange and colorful people that want to kidnap and torture you are no place for… well, anyone.
Plus, this one’s got a very Halloween kind of ending! You’ll have to watch to the very end to see what I mean. Besetment was executively produced by Mark Baird and Ray Nomoto Robison. It was edited by Greg James and features cinematography from Chuck Greenwood. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but I still thoroughly enjoyed my viewing yesterday. Look for it on VOD this June. Viva la psycho-biddys! Final Score: 7 out of 10.