Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bereavement (2010)


You have to hand it to director Stevan Mena. Planning a trilogy for his first feature film, Malevolence, was a pretty ballsy move considering that it could have easily tanked; even for a low budget horror film. Instead, it was met with praise and a couple of accolades, which didn't hurt the chances of a sequel being made. Roughly seven years later we have Bereavement, the second story (though it's technically the prequel) in Mena's trilogy of terror. With a larger budget and some experience under his belt, Mena crafts an engaging horror effort that only suffers due to the fact that fans of Malevolence will already know how this prequel finishes.

The film opens with the abduction of Martin Bristol, which was loosely touched in the first film. Martin suffers from a rare disorder that doesn't allow him to feel pain, so his disappearance is even that more harrowing in that he could be injured and not even know. Taken to the slaughterhouse that fans of the first film will remember, Martin is forced to watch his abductor, Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby, The Crazies remake), torture and murder victim after victim in order to groom him into becoming his successor of pain. On the other side of town, Allison (Alexandra Daddario, quite possibly the hottest chick I've ever seen) is moving in with her uncle (Michael Biehn, The Terminator) and his family after her parents were killed in an accident. Living in a new place, Allison has no friends and her school doesn't have a track team, a sport in which she excels. To pass the time, she goes out for daily runs where she meets William (Nolan Gerard Funk, Deadgirl) who shows a great deal of interest in her. Her jogging path is also where she spies Martin staring through a broken window of the abandoned slaughterhouse. Like it has a way of doing, curiosity gets the better of her and Allison soon finds herself trapped in Graham's dungeon, desperately trying to save not only herself, but Martin as well.

The first thing you'll notice about Bereavement is how polished it looks. Though Malevolence looked great for a $200,000 film that was shot on 35mm, Bereavement looks amazing. Every color is vibrant and crisp, and the cinematography manages to capitalize on some beautiful wide angle shots that were only teased at in the previous film. With a budget of two-million, Mena definitely spent his money well on technical aspects as lighting, locations, and a talented cast create a fully realized film that nearly borders on mainstream quality. Every actor turns in a rich and convincing performance and I can only hope that Daddario can evoke as much fear and sympathy in the upcoming Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D. Mena also trades his previous film's 80s synth soundtrack for a more natural score of stringed instruments which not only enhances the beauty of the middle-of-nowhere locale, but the horrific acts that occur within them.

Just as in Malevolence, there's a lot of violence on display, but it never goes into torture-porn territory. While stabbings still play a large part in the death count, meat hooks through thighs and axes hacking off limbs are offered up for the gorehounds who want a little more red in their diet. Still, with more extreme kills on the menu, Bereavement never fails to cross the line into laughably violent territory. This trilogy is a study of violence and what causes people to become the monsters they are. While Graham takes his orders from the skeletal remains of a bullhead, Martin's lack of pain seems to extend into his psyche as well. The kid doesn't seem to fear much as it is, and along with Graham's tutoring, it's no wonder why Martin becomes the psychopath that he does.

Speaking of...this was my only complaint about the film. Those who saw Malevolence already know what becomes of Martin. With this in mind, it's no surprise that the film ends the way it does. It's obvious in the first film that Martin was never caught, so there's really no shock when Bereavement sees him choosing the darker path and doing exactly what you expect him to. Though I know it's a trilogy, it's still nice to see the individual films hold their own while maintaining a continuing storyline. I'm not asking for a bullshit plot twist or anything, but I could've used a bit more tension and suspense when it came to the final act. Instead, I was just left wondering "How long until...?"

Despite this meager problem, Bereavement is still a wonderful film. It expands on a story that left me wanting more in the prior film, and it also has me very eager for the final chapter. Mena seems to be finding his own style in the horror community and I can only imagine and anticipate what the future has in store for the demented Martin Bristol. Hopefully a lot of pain. Not that he could feel it.

3.5/5 Stars

Biehn, being all Terminator.
I will leave my girlfriend for you.
Sup, kid? Wanna learn how to murder?

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