Coming to VOD July 2016 from Red Cardinal Films via Osiris Entertainment
Like so many other low budget horror stories, Betrothed doesn’t have any subtlety when it comes to either the plot or the sources of inspiration which the makers have looked to. Beyond the intriguing title this is just another riff on the standard backwoods killer idea, complete with kidnap, torture and a collection of sleazy creeps who are trying to keep it in the family. Their dysfunctional antics are hardly endearing, and neither are the abilities of the film makers involved. I’d like to say this is more than the sum of its parts, but like some of the characters it’s just dumb and miserable.
Audra (Mikayla Gibson) is about to have a run in with this gruesome ensemble. After giving her mother a lot of bad attitude and first world problems she heads out to the store for groceries and unluckily for her, the two brothers of the family involved are on the lookout for a new ‘wife’ to join their happy home. After their first attempt to find a partner for the younger sibling Adam (Jamie B. Cline) goes awry, their disapproving mother sends them on an errand of their own. Before you can ask if this rag smells like chloroform Audra finds herself in chains, trapped in what appears to be a desert house in middle of nowhere with nothing to do but wait for her new fiancé to plan the big event…
It’s a film that gets its intentions out of the way pretty quickly, as a girl on the roadside is taken away in the back of a van and meets a nasty end within a few minutes. There are some juicy blood and gore effects, but unfortunately they’re ‘enhanced’ with some of the worst CGI that I’ve seen well, ever in a film. It’s sort of mind boggling what the idea was since the practical stuff works well, and this is just really out of place. In the limbo period since this was made in 2014 up until a distributor found it you’d have thought someone might have thought of changing a few things, but here we are. Warts and all this is a feature which includes many strange elements from the bad camera work to the bizarre stock sound effects that are used to mark scene transitions. All they had to do was make a violent slasher, but focusing on what actually works seems to have been a problem, and for a dumb genre picture there’s a lot of extraneous material crammed in here.
As you might expect from a direct to video style effort there’s a lot of padding to reach that golden 90 minutes, and here you get a lot of elongated scenes that really drag things out. From the subplots about an out of town detective looking for the missing girl to her mother trying to get answers, they get a lot of tedious dialogue in at every opportunity. In between almost every scene at the creepy house there’s plenty of poorly paced melodrama and inane chit chat. Things go on way longer than is necessary, and by the end it begins to grate particularly when they string out the finale to include multiple conclusions. But this is a film which includes a wacky family of crazed religious types who want sex slaves, isn’t there any enjoyably depraved madness at all?
A silly metal track plays over parts of the opening, and it never shows up again in the soundtrack. This lack of personality is apparent everywhere from the bland soap opera lighting to the bland soap opera acting. It’s badly in need of some atmosphere and some really odd characters. For something which borrows from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre you’d have thought they might have picked up on the overly sinister vibes given off from the cast and the locations, but there’s no such luck here. The clan mother Ginnie (Bunny Gibson) is the only ray of light in the whole thing, ranting about The Bible and hitting people for using foul language while her ‘good boys’ rape and murder people. In one instance she has one poor girl cutting a cake while another is brutally killed. There’s a variety of other family members involved but everyone else is wooden or just too dry. Even when things get nasty it’s never really bizarre or insane enough, for a script that includes so many insane people. Any sense of levity is absent and there’s nothing truly disturbing either which leaves nothing on the table.
For a title like Betrothed I would have expected something a little more creative than straight up kidnap and suffering. Something that really twists the idea of marriage would have been a lot better, but then so much could be said for the whole thing. They could have pushed the cracked Christian ideals a lot further and really gone to town with elements that play up themes of engagement and matrimony – as well as the old family values. Instead it’s just a missed opportunity that hints at what could have been once or twice and veers off into the doldrums for most of the running time; unfortunately it’s just a slog.