Film Review: Bethany

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Bethany wasn’t the usual jump-scare horror nor did it have any sort of boogie man so to speak. What I liked about Bethany is that true life trauma intermingled with a sense of dread. Claire (Stephanie Estes) is haunted by past childhood traumas that she endured at the hands of her cold, unfeeling mother (Shannon Doherty) who placed physical beauty above all. Young Claire is forced to compete in beauty pageants against her will and to obsess over her appearance, and somehow all this stress on physical perfection causes a terrible rift between mother and daughter.

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But after the passing of her estranged mother, Claire inherits her childhood home and decides to return to live there with her husband Aaron (Zack Ward). I’m still unsure why someone with such terrible PTSD linked to that particular house would want to return let alone start LIVING in said home, but the couple does just that. Unsurprisingly, Claire begins to be haunted by her past in more ways than one.

You see, as a child, she had an imaginary friend called Bethany that would speak to her from the wall. Was the friend real or had she always been a little crazy? These are the questions that surface throughout the course of this movie. There’s a creeping dread that follows the viewer and characters throughout the whole movie and I like it because it makes you question everything. You know that bad things are going to happen, but are those things merely imagined or are they really happening?

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Bethany is one trippy movie, taking you on this rollercoaster of black emotions. What is real? What is imagined? This is a slow burn horror where everything comes to a head when the climax is finally reached and the twist revealed. I was satisfied by the ending, but then again, I’ve always been a sucker for creepy dolls, childhood traumas, and flirting with schizophrenia. The film combines psychological suspense with the supernatural and the twisty reveal is one that many wouldn’t have seen coming.

Overall, if you’re a fan of the horror genre, then you will enjoy this movie as it has many things that horror junkies love such as: an old house, creepy dolls, and strange objects protruding from one’s flesh.

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Check it out, you’re in for a dark thrilling ride.

*Thank you to the director James Cullen Bressack for the free viewing of this movie for an honest review.

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Flash Fiction: Driver, Surprise Me

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I could still feel Rex’s hands wrapped around my neck when I met Damon. I shuddered at the thought. Maybe it was because he was wearing a suit, or maybe because I needed a getaway car, but when Damon stopped the car to ask me if I needed a lift I nodded – still dazed from the lack of oxygen. It was only after I got in that I noticed them. The whole back seat was lined up with porcelain dolls. Their glassy eyes and red lips painted in a perpetual smirk kind of creeped me out.

“Where to?” he asked, dazzling me with his smile.

I gulped – unsure of where I was headed. I hadn’t planned that far ahead when I ran out of the apartment.

“The bus station,” I hesitated.

“Getting out of the city?”

I nodded.

“Where to?”

“Florida,” I lied.

He nodded, as he tried to make small talk but I wasn’t listening.

I kept staring at the rearview mirror so I could steal glances at the dolls. I was transfixed by their disarming beauty and impeccable detail. Each doll dressed in a particular style, goth, hippy, posh, 17th century baroque, to mention a few. Once he caught me staring at them, our gaze met in the mirror for a fraction of a second before I quickly diverted my focus.

I looked down at my hands. Thought about how they had been covered in blood an hour ago. My mind raced, replaying the scene. The blade coming down and his hands around my neck. He didn’t think I had it in me. He thought I was weak. But boy, had he been wrong. Dead wrong. I stifled a chuckle.

“They used to be broken you know…” Damon interrupted my thoughts.

“What?”

“The dolls. I fixed them.” There was something about the way his eyes moved over my body that made me feel as though he were prying into my very core.

“Oh,” I replied. I suddenly felt uncomfortable. The space between us seemed too little at that moment, and I willed him to drive faster. But that wasn’t the case. Instead, he suddenly brought the car to an abrupt stop. I would’ve flung forwards and probably through the windshield if I hadn’t worn my seat belt. Before I had a chance to react, a rag covered my mouth and I blacked out.

I’ve gotten used to it by now. Sitting here and waiting for the night to go by as he drives throughout the city. He fills our nights with music as we ride. The Doors, Nirvana, at times even Queen. We’re in a loop, hapless passengers of a demonic ride. We pass through Soho, Park Avenue, across the Brooklyn Bridge. My glassy eyes take in the city lights while my red lips are frozen in a perpetual smirk.

But I’m no longer broken.

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Short Story: Errors of Grievance

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“I warned you!”

The old priestess pounded a weathered fist on the small dining table, her dingy blouse falling off of a dark, bony shoulder. “But you know more than Miss Beaulieu, eh?”
Across the small table, Momma dried a rivulet of shame from her cheek.
“I didn’t mean no harm,” her voice quivered. “I swear.”
From her cold, moonlight-washed perch atop the old bayou house, Adelaide shifted her attention to the agitated women below. Rolling her skinny frame onto her belly, she shivered under her thread-bear dress, setting her little doll beside her. He balanced on his round torso, head draped in a dry tangle of Spanish moss. Yellow lamplight sliced across his black button eyes and together they peered through a crack near the chimney overlooking the kitchen.
“I never took it out the house.” Momma insisted. “Someone done stole it.”
Miss Beaulieu planted a hand on her hip and took a long draw on a short cigar.
“Who done the spell? That jinx, Laronde?” Syllables of dark smoke puffed out of her mouth. Momma stroked her arm and looked away.
“Stupid girl.” Beaded bracelets criticized and chided on Miss Beaulieu’s thin wrist. “His bad voodoo gon’ come back to him and everyone he cast for.”
“You’ve cast for love before.” Momma’s eyes pleaded.
Miss Beaulieu jabbed a finger. “You know this ain’t the same.”
Adelaide’s heart ached. She didn’t like seeing Momma so upset, but she also didn’t like being only one in the house when Momma fell into one of her dark moods. So when her brothers escaped to the river to hunt gators, Adelaide took refuge on the rooftop. In a cigar box, tucked under a missing brick in the chimney top, was her trove of knick-knacks. Her new doll, dressed in cotton pants and a burlap overcoat, was her most valuable addition. It was bad to spoil surprises but Adelaide knew Momma had made this Christmas doll just for her.
“‘Sides,” Miss Beaulieu paced, “he got himself a faithful wife and a good job in Baton Rouge. You think all the Magick in the world gon’ make that man wanna leave that to take up wit’ you out here? Wit’ your five kids?”
Adelaide gave the little man a kiss to ease his troubled expression, the scent of cloves and musk wafting up from the crude stitching down his chest. She would replace him in his hiding spot under the floorboard tomorrow.
“Can you make him a gris-gris bag for protection?” Momma wiped her apron across her cheeks. “In case something happen to the doll?”
Adelaide froze.
“A good Christian like him won’t be caught dead with a necklace full of chicken’s feet and dove’s blood.”
Adelaide’s eyes fell upon the little man beside her. Dried grass protruded out of his stiff arms and legs. He suddenly appeared feeble and indisposed, like a paralyzed prisoner.
“Ain’t no spell on your lover can be reversed without that doll.” Miss Beaulieu dropped a large dollop of ash onto the floor. “Only the One Most High can help him if something happens to it.”
Nausea swallowed up Adelaide like the cold, wet mouth of a whale.
Miss Beaulieu leaned in. “Who you think done stole it?”
“Adelaide?”
Below, Adelaide’s brothers eased their rowboat up to the, rotting, crooked pier. The eldest, Francois, shielded his eyes from the bow lantern to see her better.
“Why you up there?”
Flushed from hiding, Adelaide leapt to her frozen bare feet, accidentally kicking her treasures down the slanted roof. The doll bounced over the ledge. Vertigo struck her numb. Her footing slipped and she tumbled down the sharp slats.
“Adelaide!” Francois’s voice broke as her footing slipped.
A screech leapt from her throat before she plunged into the river. Frigid water hit like glass on her stomach. It rushed up her nose, burning the brain lobes behind her eyes. Sound muted, heavy and low in her ears. Her mind jolted with panic. Adelaide’s eyes popped open but there was no light. Her heart pounded. Only the flash of a brass shoe buckle glittered as it somersaulted down into the watery shadows. She grasped but only caught emptiness. Lungs aching for air, she pulled her way up through the cold void and burst to the surface.
“Sweet Jesus!”
“Grab her!”
“The doll! The do—!” A wave of river water sloshed into Adelaide’s mouth.
“Adelaide, stop! Settle down!”
“No, no, no!” she cried. Strong hands gripped under her arms and slid her into the tiny boat. Violent coughs rattled her little bones. She gagged from a bellyful of the Mississippi and tried to writhe free a final time.
“I…I…didn’t know!” Adelaide sobbed. Warm arms wrapped around her and pinned her to the seat of the small wooden rowboat. “Momma, I didn’t know!”
“Adelaide?” Momma’s voice carried from the house.
“Settle yourself, girl.” Francois held her firm. “What are you carryin’ on about?”
Adelaide’s eyes darted beyond the bucking bow, searching for the voodoo, but it had sunk all the way to the bottom of the bayou.

By: Erica Ruhe

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Poetry: Broken Doll

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Love has treated me
Like a toddler treats
Its toy.
That’s why my hair is tangled
and my limbs are broken.

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