February 11, 2012

Bereavement (2010)

Directed by Stevan Mena. Starring Alexandra Daddario ("Allison Miller"), Spencer List ("Martin"), Brett Rickaby ("Graham Sutter"), and Michael Biehn ("Jonathan Miller"). Rated R.

Source: Region 1 DVD (Anchor Bay/Starz)
Running time: 01:47:16
Country: USA

Orphaned teenager Allison is taken out of the city and into the country when she reluctantly moves in with her aunt and uncle. As she attempts to adjust to her new living conditions, she meets a boy from a nearby trailer park who lives alone with his crippled father, and the two engage in a budding romance much to the chagrin of Allison's protective uncle. Meanwhile, a serial killer who dwells in the area, apparently lives in an abandoned slaughterhouse, and has conversations with a cow skull, abducts and tortures teenage girls while seemingly grooming a mute little boy to eventually partake in the fine art of snatching unsuspecting young ladies and subsequently murdering them. Will the rebellious Allison, her uncle, and the serial killer eventually cross paths? You bet!

According to director Stevan Mena, BEREAVEMENT is a prequel to a slasher that he directed not too long ago called MALEVOLENCE, which I ashamedly haven't seen yet. And I say ashamedly because I probably should have watched it before reviewing this movie in order to get a better understanding of the mythology that Mena seems to be playing with here, but alas. Sue me.

Regarding the little boy, he has a very unusual character trait that I don't really need to talk about despite it being revealed in the very first scene of the movie, but I will say that this character trait - or genetic trait, rather - allowed for some rather disturbing and taboo scenes of child abuse (and child mutilation) at the hands of the deranged, misanthropic serial killer, who more or less treats the boy like an animal. At its core, BEREAVEMENT is a pretty standard rural serial killer movie, but the relationship between the boy and the killer is one of the few things that makes it somewhat unique. As far as the serial killer, his identity isn't kept a secret at all. At first I was a little disappointed that so much of the killer was shown from such an early point in the movie. However, the mystique of the character isn't so much the focus as it is his intense schizophrenia and inherently unpredictable behavior.

BEREAVEMENT is set in the 80's, which makes sense if this is in fact a prequel that apparently sets up the little boy as being the killer in MALEVOLENCE, and I have to give Mena credit for how he tackled the 80's look and feel of the movie. One thing that annoys me about horror movies set in the 80's is that some of the directors behind them feel the need to constantly remind you that the movie takes place in the 80's (HOUSE OF THE DEVIL) by incorporating as many fashion trends, pop culture references, and contemporary 80's music as possible. The approach that Mena takes here is very subtle, and I applaud him for that. Granted he probably didn't have the proper budget to go on an all-out masturbatory 80's nostalgia-fest, but still.

When it comes to Allison and her relationship to her uncle, no new ground is broken here. It's your typical rebellious teenager stuff, which is fine. In fact, the movie as a whole doesn't exactly break new ground. As I said, it's a rural serial killer movie with a few little touches here and there that keep it from being another stale entry in the straight-to-DVD serial killer and slasher markets. Aside from what I already mentioned, Mena makes some rather bold and surprising choices in the film by (MILD SPOILER ALERT) killing off certain central characters when you least expect it, which I very much appreciated and am typically a fan of if handled properly in genre films. Despite not being an extraordinary movie by any means, BEREAVEMENT is worth seeking out for its nasty and grimy tone in the vein of HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER and TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE.

Score: 6.5

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