A family of desert Hillbillies kidnap a girl so as to marry her off, rape and then murder her. “You got spunk,” Momma hillbilly tells captive Audra, thereby promising the audience her survival for at least a little longer than the girl taken and brutalised during the opening credits. And she’ll need it, being trapped in the plot of Don’t Tell the Bride by way of House of 1000 Corpses as she is.
Titty-groping, sleazy, brutality typifies Jim Lane’s Betrothed, in which female characters are frequently referred to as “whore” and men repeatedly beat and rape their kidnapped wives on the kitchen floor for imagined slights. Given the atrocities taking place here, it’s a wonder that Audra (an inappropriately chipper Mikayla Gibson) holds her composure so well – not once losing her shit in the face of rampant rape and murder. In this case, Gibson being an altogether terrible actress is to the film’s benefit – were this depicted with any level of competence, Betrothed would be a really disturbing horror film.
Instead, there are rubbish one-liners (“did you spill coffee on yourself?” “No… on you”), a gay kid chained up in the attic (“they said I could be anything… I wanted to be a Princess”) and a stereotypically dogged cop trying to find Audra, but really just there to pad the story out into feature length. Like the two hundred odd miles between Hillbilly ranch and civilisation, Betrothed is a massive slog, enlivened only by the short appearances of genre faces Suze Lanier-Bramlett (The Hills Have Eyes) and Bill Oberst Jr. (nothing good, but at least he tries). Free of the farm, the last twenty minutes are at least slightly entertaining, even as the film itself steadfastly refuses to end.
It’s no fun raging against Indie horror films clearly made on a shoestring budget, but this is one of the worst. Morally objectionable and profoundly useless on a technical level, it’s a tone-deaf Hillbilly rape nightmare, enjoyable only on a grotesquely ironic level. And then, when it’s finally over and finished, Betrothed ends with the Peep Show theme tune. Wait, what?
BETROTHED / CERT: 18 / DIRECTOR: JIM LANE / SCREENPLAY: JEFF ROSENBERG / STARRING: MIKAYLA GIBSON, JOEY BELL, DAVID BROWN, ELIZABETH CASTILLO, JAMIE B CLINE / UK RELEASE DATE: WIDE RELEASE (TBA); JULY (VOD RELEASE)