Betsy is an independent werewolf horror film helmed by Shawn Burkett, director of the widely sought-after Don’t Fuck in the Woods. Betsy, the titular character of the film, is a young woman who is attacked and bitten by a werewolf while walking home late one evening. Burkett’s story largely focuses on the fractured mentality of his muse, both in regard to the changes she’s going through, as well as the damaging trauma of being attacked.
I’m a huge fan of werewolf movies, with Silver Bullet, An American Werewolf in London, Dog Soldiers, and the underrated Late Phases standing out as my personal favorites. Much like the last film mentioned, Betsy bleeds indie ambition. Confidently telling a small-scale, personal story in the face of a horrific, larger-than-life scenario, Burkett’s film scores points for staying true to itself and attempting to equal its scares with an emotionally affecting plot. Unfortunately, the final result of the film falls short of matching the potential of its premise.
While Betsy‘s personal approach to storytelling is admirable, it ends up sacrificing excitement for the sake of remaining a quiet film. While I was initially captivated by the bare-bones path of the story, I found myself relatively bored for much of the run-time. Clocking in at just under 80 minutes long, the approach causes the film to feel at least half an hour longer- a detrimental flaw when not much of interest is happening on screen.
Many of the actors, though they give fine performances, especially Kelci C. Magel, whose broken spirit and transformation is far and away the highlight of Betsy, aren’t entirely believable as the characters in which they portray. The cops don’t feel like cops, the game warden doesn’t feel like a game warden, etc. Suspension of disbelief is always mandatory in a horror film, but in this case, the disbelief proves distracting.
The scarce attempts at horror, too, fall entirely flat. It’s a low-budget film, so the lack of a horrific monster or visually terrifying moments are especially forgivable, but those things aren’t really where the damage is done. The shortcomings more-so stem from the absence of suspenseful tone. Everything that happens on screen carries the same dreary mood, from first frame to last, and Burkett fails to draw the viewer in with necessary tension, because hardly an ounce of tension exists within the film. Even the action-packed climax is devoid of excitement due to the lack of established tone; and though it aims for an emotionally-gratifying payoff, it undoes its hard work with a forced, cheesy reveal during the credits.
While the small-scale story makes for an admirable change of pace within the werewolf subgenre- something that many indie fans will undoubtedly clamor for- the majority of Betsy doesn’t work as well as I’d hoped to report. I love the intentions of Burkett, but the end result is slow, ineffective, and forgettable.