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STUDIO: Anchor Bay
RUNNING TIME: 107 minutes
• Commentary by director Stevan Mena
• Making of
• First Look: On the Set
• Deleted Scenes
• TV Spot & Trailer
• Still Montage
A well-crafted, character driven slasher that offers some fresh approaches to a well-worn genre.
Written and directed by Stevan Mena, starring Michael Biehn, Alexandra Daddario, Spencer List, John Savage, and Alexandra Daddario.
Six-year-old Martin Bristol, a boy born without the ability to feel pain, is abducted by a psycho-killer and taught the tricks of the killing trade.
Bereavement is the prequel to writer/director Steven Mena’s 2004 accomplished yet polarizing slasher Malevolence. The film is an origin story for the killer in Malevolence, Martin Bristol. It expands on the opening minutes of the original, showing how Martin was abducted from his backyard when he was six-years-old and taken to the Sutter meat processing plant, where he was trained by madman Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby) in the ways of brutality and murder. Martin suffers from congenital analgesia – the inability to feel physical pain – and because of this, Sutter sees Martin as some sort of chosen one to aid in his vague mission of homicidal righteousness.
After Martin is abducted, the film jumps forward five years. While Martin is being taught by Sutter in the slaughterhouse, who should move into town but busty 17-year-old Allison (Alexandre Daddario) – just the type of girl Sutter frequently kidnaps and kills. Allison has recently moved to this rural Pennsylvania town to live with her uncle Jonathan (Michael Biehn). She starts getting cozy with a local rebellious monkey-wrench named William (Nolan Gerard Funk), to the sharp disapproval of Uncle John.
The dual story lines of Martin and Allison run through about two-thirds of the movie until they meet with some grisly results. Although they run parallel, both story lines firmly grasp your attention and it never feels like your watching two separate films. Both examine extreme family dysfunction from different angles: Allison inability to mesh with her aunt and uncle, William’s constant arguing with his drunk, wheelchair-bound dad, and, of course, the blood-soaked home-schooling of Martin.
As Sutter, Rickaby delivers a pleasantly psychotic performance. Sutter’s driven by some foggy sense of wrath-like justice; taking orders and making sacrifices to his horned skull god – of which he makes totems of that help keep Martin on the Sutter property. They’re posted up like scarecrows and set against the bleak, wide shots of the Pennsylvania landscapes, they make for some of the most beautiful shots in the film. Daddario is the other stand-out in the film as Allison. She makes for a great teen-heroine-scream-queen and sports a thunderous amount of cleavage for someone her age. She’s got a future in horror for sure and is attached to star in the upcoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D.
Much like in Malevolence, Mena takes the slow-burn route in Bereavement. Taking that increasingly popular route (thanks, Ti West!) means that you better have a pay-off worth a damn. The climax in Malevolence underwhelmed a lot of people (including myself), but once the boulder starts rolling downhill in Bereavement, it doesn’t stop, leaving a trail of blood, limbs, and guts in its wake. The film thankfully never dips into torture porn territory and never feel gratuitous, but there are plenty of colorful splatters left on the wall. Inside the Sutter slaughterhouse and around the rural town, Mena places his characters in increasing danger, until the final kill that made my jaw drop despite seeing it coming a mile away. It’s a truly chilling finale.
Mena has once again made a gripping, gritty little horror movie, but with Bereavement he’s also upped his filmmaking game. I’m sure it helped that he had a bigger budget, but money can’t by talent and Mena’s got a whole lot of that. He knows that characters and psychology are just as key to a horror film’s success as the kills and effects. After a six year wait, Bereavement delivers on the promise of Malevolence and then some. Horror fans should be frothing in anxious anticipation for Mena’s third film in this planned trilogy. I for one look forward to seeing how he wraps up the ballad of Martin Bristol.
Anchor Bay has put together a worthy Blu-ray for Bereavement that’s worth the money. Skip buying beer for one night and pick it up!
BEHIND THE SCENES: This is essentially a video diary of the making of the film, with plenty of interviews with Mena, the producer, and Brett Rickaby. Rickaby and Mena discusses how they collaborated to develop the character of Graham Sutter and how genuinely creepy Rickaby was on set. There’s some cutesy stuff here too between Mena and Spencer List, the child-actor who plays Martin Bristol. Mena seemed very excited to have a real crew for his prequel.
ICONS OF FRIGHT PRESENTS: FIRST LOOK: BEREAVEMENT: This is a nice little set-visit from the horror website Icons of Fright. Mena explains the film and goes into some detail concerning his inspiration. He says that he’s fascinated by stories of girls who are abducted, have every chance to escape, but choose to remain a captive. He explains how a lot of Bereavement deals with psychological control.
DELETED SCENES: A few deleted and extended scenes with optional commentary by Mena. There’s a deleted scene of William and his drunkard father fighting and an extended scene of William looking for Allison.
TRAILERS AND TV SPOT: Includes a trailer for Malevolence.
Rating: Out of a Possible 5 Stars
Out of a Possible 5 Stars