We take a look at Jim Lane’s new horror…
Out in the desert there exists a family of very sick, very religious rednecks. That’s easy to swallow, or else you haven’t seen much horror. The USP here is that the mother likes to send her two sons out to kidnap women to provide suitable brides for them. The older brother’s been happily married for years – happy for him, that is; his wife doesn’t seem too happy with the situation – but the younger brother’s still a virgin. Don’t worry about it, though: his time’s come, and he kidnaps himself a very busty young woman from a local parking lot; however, on taking her home, he finds that his mother disapproves of his choice of bride; she’s a harlot. Oddly, instead of sending her on her way, the mother marries them anyway, then stabs her to death just as they’re consummating their union. It seems pretty crazy to me but then what do I know, I’m not religious. Anyway, he does as his momma says and finds himself a new, more wholesome bride, played by Mikayla Gibson, and pretty well at that. From there, we follow the resourceful Gibson as she tries to escape from the weirdoes, while also trying to make nice with the weirdoes so no-one will suspect a thing.
The premise of forced marriage is, in my opinion, a good one. Certainly it’s scary, and there are many different angles one could play up. A really clever director might even turn in something satirical like Lucky McKee’s The Woman. Of course, it isn’t too original a premise, because unwilling sex slaves form a key part of Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes, and every evil hick picture since then has been drawing on Deliverance and The Hills Have Eyes. But originality isn’t too important, you know, and it is something that’s crying out to be explored further, as the main premise of a film rather than just something that forms a part of it. But Betrothed is, sadly, not the film that’s crying out to be made.
Tonally, it’s far too silly for its scare scenes to have any impact, with all of the members of the family coming off more as caricatures out of pantomime than real threats. Aside from Gibson, you’ll find yourself searching really hard for another performance that at least works. And the picture really needs its performances to ground it, because the budget was clearly too low to stretch even to realistic gore effects, which can really go a long way in this type of film. Friday the 13th is rubbish when you reflect on it, but Tom Savini’s splatter effects are enough to get you through it. Here, CG blood has been used in place of that lovely corn syrup stuff, and guess what – it looks like CG blood, and it’s really hard to trick your brain into thinking anyone’s in peril after that. Neither are the sets or the lighting at all effective; the whole thing looks like a home movie your neighbour shot in their medium-priced suburban home. Where’s the grit? We all know that sickos live in horrible, filthy squalor, don’t we? Well, not here. By the time you get to the absurdly long, twist-filled final act, you’ll wonder what’s keeping you going. Maybe it’s just that, like me, you fervently believe this premise could work.
Betrothed is now available on VOD, will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!