unblinkingly takes on a very disturbing and potentially toxic plot thread –
an autistic boy is kidnapped by a psychopath and taught the ways of serial
killing. It’s a shocking conceit and one that could be called exploitative,
yet the film is so well-made (for a horror film) and the more questionable
scenes are mostly handled as tastefully as possible, in context. Therefore,
the movie does not give off a creepy sense of being made just to be
bare bones of the plot are pretty standard in the horror genre – psycho man
kidnaps women and tortures and kills them in a filthy, secluded lair. One
beautiful woman becomes his most recent victim and must try desperately to
escape the trap she finds herself in. We’ve all seen variations on this,
but it is to writer/director Stevan Mena’s credit that
because of his innovative visual sense and
somewhat deeper-than-normal characterizations, Bereavement usually
does not feel stale even when its ideas are not exactly fresh.
a prequel to Mena’s 2004 shocker Malevolent – a film that I have to
admit I had never heard of before, though I am not exactly up on horror, so
it may well be very respected in that world. Apparently that film takes
place years later when that little boy has grown up to be the mad serial
However, in this genesis story, the boy is mostly
simply observing the carnage. Bereavement introduces us to him as a
six-year-old child who needs constant care – not only because he is autistic
and does not speak, but also because he has a rare condition in which he
cannot feel any pain. He is snatched out of his own backyard – never to be
seen again by his family.
kidnapper is Sutter (Brett Rickaby) – the deranged owner of a long-closed
slaughterhouse. Five years later he and his “son” are living in the filthy
compound deep in the sticks, periodically kidnapping women and chaining them
up – supposedly to save them. However, when the women disappoint him – and
they inevitably do – Sutter sends them back to their maker. All the while,
the boy silently and horrifiedly witnesses the carnage.
Honestly, Sutter is the least interesting character here, a horror movie
near-cliché of the crazed, religious, homicidal
loner who is being told to kill by voices in his head (and stifle a laugh,
if you can, when the power he prays to turns out to be a scarecrow with the
skull of a steer). It is never quite explained why Sutter felt the need to
take on his unwilling apprentice – mass murder gets lonely, I suppose.
the meantime we are introduced to Allison (Alexandra Daddario of Percy
Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and Hall Pass), a
moody and rebellious (but mostly nice) 17-year-old who has to move to the
country and live with her uncle (Michael Biehn of The Terminator and
Aliens) after her parents are killed in an
Allison, who grew up in the city, hates the slow life in the small town.
The only good parts she finds to her situation are that there is plenty of
room to run (she’s a marathoner) and there is a really cute guy who lives a
couple of miles down the way. Then, one day when she’s out for a jog, she
notices the mysterious little boy peering out of a broken window in that
spooky and abandoned-looking building.
yeah, I think we know where this is heading.
However, it is to Bereavement’s credit that even though it seems to
be going in certain kinds of standard directions, the movie actually does
have some interesting little tricks up its sleeve. Yes, it is in some ways
beholden to the limitations of its genre, but in other ways it is trying to
stretch them as well.
Also, for a storyline which would not necessarily seem to be an actor’s
showcase, Mena is able to coax some interesting performances from his quirky
cast, a mix of new faces and grizzled old vets. Daddario shows the beauty
and talent which would lead her to get roles in the above-mentioned
big-budget blockbusters (Bereavement was actually filmed a few years
ago, before either of those roles.) Nolan Gerard Funk is also good in his
limited role as the cute country boy. And the old school actors – Biehn as
Allison’s compassionate-but-overprotective uncle and John Savage as the
hunky boy’s crazy,
daddy – make big
impressions in their limited screen time.
the end, it seems perhaps that Mena’s skill as a filmmaker outstrips his
skill as a screenwriter. For a film that is often so dim and murky,
Bereavement has a wonderfully artistic look and Mena is able to create
some truly impressive shots for such a low-budget indie. Sometimes it is
hard not to wish that this savvy director’s eye was pointed at a less
However, as trashy
chillers go, Bereavement is better than expected – and better than
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: March 4, 2011.