The Movie Waffler New Release Review (VOD) - BETROTHED | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review (VOD) - BETROTHED

A young woman is kidnapped by a deranged family.

Review by Ren Zelen (@renzelen)

Directed by: Jim Lane

Starring: Mikayla Gibson, Bunny Gibson, Joey Bell, Jamie B. Cline, Adam Dunnells, Bill Oberst Jr

Buxom girls, abduction, incarceration, torture and random gore make a certain kind of horror movie, but not a good horror movie. Atmosphere and empathy contribute greatly to that goal and Betrothed is rather lacking in both.

The title credits of Jim Lane’s Betrothed pretty much puts its cards out on the table from the outset – a skimpily clad, busty woman is abducted by two men while flagging down a truck for help. She is doped, tied up, assaulted, beaten, dressed up in a wedding dress, ‘married’ to one of the men, then promptly has her top ripped off, is raped, stabbed repeatedly, mutilated and dismembered.

If you’re hooked by this kind of intro, then this movie is for you.

Then feisty college student Audra (Mikayla Gibson) is kidnapped from a local store by the sons of the deranged Cooper clan - the two men mentioned above - rednecks with a strange fascination for marriage, violence and dismemberment, and taken to their shack in the middle of the desert.

Audra is chained by a long neck leash, but inexplicably avoids an immediate dispatch similar to her now butchered predecessor. Her ‘wedding’ to the younger of the brothers, Adam (Jamie B. Cline), is instead being ‘prepared’ (who knows why?). It gives Audra just enough time to placate the sadistic whims of mother Ginnie (Bunny Gibson) and hulking, chainsaw wielding brother Nate (Adam Dunnells) while she plans an escape.

She takes her opportunity one morning when the two boys have gone off merrily to their cousin with the remains of Nate’s former wife who wasn’t quite living up to their exacting demands. Choking the mad mama of the household with her chain, Audra ties her up (badly) and drags her into the bathroom (the door of which she can’t lock?).

As she searches the house frantically for car keys she discovers another prisoner chained up in the attic and surprise, this time it’s a boy. He is apparently another son of the house who has been discarded and abused because he confessed to being gay. Audra promises to take him with her, which turns out to be another less than brilliant action on her part.

Betrothed has a simple premise: A psychotic, demented family kidnaps women, imprisons them, forces them to ‘marry’, then keeps them as sex slaves and domestic skivvies. If they aren’t dutiful, obedient wives, they get beaten and raped. Some weird religious claptrap gets thrown at all the victims, including the reviled ‘gay’ son, none of which actually makes sense amid the proceedings. Meanwhile, Audra’s mother and a determined detective conduct a frantic search to locate her.

As far as abuse and violence to women goes, this movie certainly won’t disappoint. But hey, that’s alright, because the violence is initiated by the ‘mama’ of the two boys who is apparently mad as a loon and gets off on dominating and witnessing as many ‘daughters-in-law’ bloodily beaten, raped and murdered as this family of psychos can get their hands on. Her character is undoubtedly pointed at as the culprit for her two homicidal, rapist sons, both of which do a fine job of making you loathe them… at least until you meet their daddy…

Apart from my qualms regarding the politics, there is the problem of pacing and dialogue – in Betrothed some scenes go on longer than they need to, and many seem to have little relevance to the narrative other than to shock. The subplot with Audra’s mother working with the detective to find her kidnapped daughter is more interesting than the scenes of graphic violence, mainly because they seem like a throwback to the crime dramas of the 1980s. The whole movie is often derivative – throw in a bit of Texas Chainsaw, a bit of The Hills Have Eyes, a bit of Wolf Creek

Performances are pretty much what you’d expect from an exploitation flick, with flimsy characters spouting overcooked dialogue and over or under-acting, but the foremost problem is a lack of atmosphere and tone. When crafting a horror film of any kind, it is essential to build atmosphere that creates tension, apprehension, empathy for victims and can produce scares and shocks for an audience. It's almost as if all the violence, gore, blood and abuse here is played for laughs. The whole thing is really hard to get a handle on.

On the plus side, visually, the film is crisp with a fairly clear sense of filmmaking language. Mikayla Gibson is a gutsy, cool-headed heroine, contrasting with the rest of the wild-eyed shrieking and mugging. Genre veterans Bunny Gibson and Bill Oberst Jr. can chew the scenery at will and get the chance to pop up all along the crazy, convoluted, blood-soaked ride to the end.

Any stomach churning that was involved in this movie was triggered by disgust rather than suspense or fear, the emphasis being on grossing-out the viewer. Buxom girls, abduction, incarceration, torture and random gore make a certain kind of horror movie, but not a good horror movie. Atmosphere and empathy contribute greatly to that goal and Betrothed is rather lacking in both.
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