BR: Bereavement (2010)

January 10, 2012 | By

Return to: Home Blu-ray, DVD, Film Reviews / B


Film: Weak/ DVD Transfer: Excellent/ DVD Extras: Very Good

Label: Anchor Bay Canada/ Region: A / Released: August 30, 2011

Genre: Horror / Slasher / Serial Killer

Synopsis: In this prequel to “Malevolence,” the makings of serial killer are exploited in nasty detail.

Special Features: Audio commentary with writer / diector Stevan Mena / 2 Featurettes: “The Making of Bereavement” + First Look on the Set” / TV Spots / Stills Montage




Stevan Mena’s prequel to his feature film debut, Malevolence (2004) also works as a standalone film (one need not have seen or known anything connected with its story or lead character), and although designed to give fans a backstory on how serial killer Martin Bristol / Sutter was essentially formed by a series of cruel events, it’s actually two separate narratives that eventually converge: the abduction of Martin (Chase Pechacek), a child affected by a condition where he can’t physically sense pain, and his inculcation into serial killing by vile Graham Sutter (terrifying Brett Rickaby); and a sort-of coming of age drama where Allison Miller (Alexandra Daddario) has no choice but to live with her estranged uncle Jonathan (Michael Biehn) after the sudden death of both parents, but starts to run foul of his authority when she starts seeing William (Nolan Gerard Funk), the no-good son of a no-good neighbour.

The concept should work – create two streams of compelling characters, then placing them in grievous harm’s way – but what mucks up the whole effort is Mena’s decision to repeatedly focus on the torment of the women Sutter snatches so he can teach Martin his trade: killing women because the skull demon demands it. Sutter’s a second-generation killer, passing on his nihilistic behaviour to a surrogate child, seeing how the natural conception of a child with any woman is impossible for a psycho who lives beside the remains of a crumbling slaughterhouse.

The problem is that the ongoing torture of the women, their pleading, and their gradual slaughter becomes formulaic, and dramatically redundant. Mena essentially repeats the same information with different levels of cruelty, but the kills don’t further the plot; it’s telegraphed early into the film that at some point Allison will become his next target, but it takes an eternity before she’s snatched, and the film continues to meander before the nihilistic finale sets up the events in Malevolence.

The coming of age material is generally strong (only John Savage as William’s crippled father stands out for making bad dialogue worse with over-energized rants), as is the mystery of why William is detested by Allison’s uncle. Allison’s efforts to settle in with her new family after the recent deaths of her parents is fairly strong, but the killings tend to interrupt the narrative of what should’ve been a wholly separate film.

It’s a shame, because Mena not only returned to the authentic slaughterhouse location from Malevolence, but further milked its creepy surroundings with additional views, inside and out. It’s an amazing location that exudes its own powerful aura – everyone was quite unnerved during filming at the disintegrating plant – but like the multiple kill sequences, there’s too many scenes of actors passing and driving by the plant, repeatedly conveying ‘it’s a really creepy place!’ as atmospheric filler material.

There’s no doubt Mena has crafted a measured riff on the Texas Chainsaw Massacre tale, but it’s too uneven and ultimately too dull for long stretches to really engage. The cast is generally strong (Biehn gives his familiar character a fair level of compassion) and the film’s nihilism runs steadily to the end, but it’s a disjointed effort that might be of chief interest to Malevolence fans who shared Mena’s own need to know more about the Sutter legacy from top to bottom.

Anchor Bay’s Blu-ray features a really gorgeous transfer of the film, showing off the rich rustic locations used by Mena to the max, an intriguing making-of featurette, and audio commentary with Mena that’s pretty steady on making-of material. In addition to writing & directing Bereavement, Mena also edited and scored the film. His prior film was the horror comedy Brutal Massacre (2007).



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


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