14 December 2014


Bereavement, by 3rd time director Stevan Mena, is not as bad as many reviews I read online make it out to be. If you are not a horror/slasher fan you will no doubt dislike it, and if you are a horror/slasher fan who has become overly jaded and bored with the same psycho-killer formula being repeated over and over ad nauseum for the past forty some years then you will be equally or more disappointed. But if you go into it not expecting much new in the storyline department and can cope with a few let downs in terms of characters doing ludicrous things to propel the plot along and an inexplicable ending then you should enjoy the film. The direction is fairly tight and is a step above Mena’s Malevolence, which features the serial killer Martin Bristol as an adult. In fact, I had not yet seen Malevolence when I saw Bereavement and had no idea who Martin Bristol was or that Bereavement was a prequel to that film. I think that actually helped me to enjoy Bereavement a bit more than had I seen the first film and known that young, kidnapped Martin was being groomed by the psychotic Graham Sutter into becoming the monster he would evolve into in Malevolence.

Young Martin Bristol (Spencer List) suffers from some rare condition that prevents him from feeling injuries of any type. He is kidnapped from his swing set by Sutter and kept in the barn of Sutter’s pig farm/abbattoir where his spends his impressionable boyhood years watching Sutter torture and murder young women he abducts from surrounding areas around his rural Pennsylvania home. His home is a derelict old slaughter house that police never figure is worth checking out during the five years of Martin’s disappearance, nor does the constant disappearances of several local young women seem to warrant much concern. Even in downtown New York some detective with time on his hands would connect the dots and think “hey we gotta seral killer on our hands here” but beautiful girls vanishing from a farming community seems to be the norm here. And this is where the film starts to have problems of course. It is not with the acting which is pretty good by the leads (including Michael Biehn, Alexandra Daddario, John Savage –who yet again plays some sort of handicapped person, a role he has perfected since The Deerhunter- and Brett Rickaby as Sutter) nor with the direction or fine cinematography by Macco Cappetta, but with the odd plot gaps and incongruities that have become part and parcel with slasher films in general. That being said the film is still better than many of the new slasher stuff which are borrowing more and more from films like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Hostel than from the masked slasher stuff from the 80’s, though Martin Bistol does wear a hood in Malevolence. Like Hostel many of the death scenes go on a bit too long, and watching women being tortured and slowly stabbed to death is not really scary. It is unnerving and unsettling but not scary in the way I prefer a horror movie to feel. Also I have problems, and have mentioned this before , with the bleak, fatalistic endings of modern horror movies. I am not trying to give away the ending and yet how can I avoid it when I say at least one decent person should survive. It is not really a “clever” twist ending to have every half way likable person in the film killed off.

The film tries to explore why a young and innocent Martin Bristol became the killer he becomes in Malevolence and on some levels it succeeds at that. Some people say it did not, but it certainly did better than, lets say, the newer Texas Chainsaw Massacre films explaining the origins of Leather Face, as if we need to even know that. Another problem might be with the lead character of Allison (Daddario) who plays the sullen and morose, angst ridden teenage girl who leaves the big city for the country and brings her life weary, whiny attitude along with her. Had she met Edward Cullen along the way things would have worked out better no doubt. Of course what other type of female character would work in this sort of story? I guess this winds up becoming the best of all possible worlds and yet it get s a bit annoying at times. And Daddario seems too mature to play the (I believe) 17 year old high school girl Allison. And while I have no major issues as a guy with seeing her massive jugs and erect nipples in tank tops as she sits on the bed chatting with her uncle (Biehn) and aunt it just did not seem all that believable. And I do not go into these sorts of film looking for everything to be 100% believable of course. But I think we are, as a horror culture, long past are the days of gratuitous nudity or erect nipples and boobage.

Like Malevolence Mena also scores the film and I think does a better job this time around. Martin Bistol is not a horrible entry to the elite community of super slashers and I have a sense we will be seeing a couple more films with his character in them. The film is well shot and the editing and pace are not unbearable. I am not a whimp but I did not like some of the protracted torture and death sequences but I have seen worse. There is a fine line that separates, in my view, a decent horror/slasher film from a cheap gore film. Bereavement does not cross that line really and there is definite talent involved with the project. Slasher fans will enjoy it. Cynics and weak stomachs will not.


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