Director:  Stevan Mena

Notable Cast: Michael Biehn, Alexandra Daddario

Rating: R

Review:  I’m not quite sure what horror means anymore. Honestly.  I see films like Bereavement and am lost on what people find scary.  Not at any part of the film did I ever have the urge to grasp something tight or shield my eyes in terror.  The script borrowed ideals from the torture flick camp, mixed it with laughable execution, and gussied it up using a dreadfully horrible story.  I was honestly bored to tears minus all of five minutes total run time, losing focus even at parts, but figured gluing my eyes to the screen anyway would help pass the time quicker to some degree.  Nah.  Where did all the fun in low-budget horror go??  The gross-outs! The painfully quotable one liners!  The pointless nudity!   The entertaining depravity!  Trust me, I understand not every horror flick can be a grindhouse entertainment fling, and with a fantastic script can also come a chillingly tense but productive experience.  The thing is, Bereavement achieves none of this, and spotlights the problems of the horror genre today.  Now all we get is a film trying to see just how many times it can splatter fake blood onto an innocent kid.  Oh wow, edgy!   They eat a f@cking baby in one of my favorite horror/comedy trilogies Feast.  Step up, or be left behind by those willing to push already unstable bounds disturbingly farther.

Bereavement is the heart wrenching story of a small child named Martin (Spencer List) who is abducted right from his own back yard by a demented murderer named Graham (Brett Rickaby).  He doesn’t want to kill Martin though, but instead teach him, as Martin has a rare disease that causes him not to feel pain.  Graham can do things like cut Martin and show him it doesn’t hurt; shaping Martin to take over his slashing ways.  And if forcing a child to watch you murder people wasn’t sadistic enough, Graham takes orders from a dried cattle skull whom he thinks rules his life, in a Son of Sam kind of way.  One day, while hiding out in an old abandon pig farm, Martin is spotted by new girl in town Allison (Daddario).  Rumors circle amongst the town about what goes on at Sutter’s old building, but Allison becomes determined to help the little boy inside.  Allison quickly discovers though that no one should know what Sutter is doing in the abandoned property, and rescuing poor Martin becomes second to her own survival.  Unfortunately (fortunately for us) her friends and family also get involved, and Sutter is released from behind those brick walls.

Ohh, a red filter, how artsy of you!

Mmmm…I love when my horror is mixed with a heavy-handed social commentary!  Yes, that was sarcastic.  I HATE it when my horror films become preachy and foreboding like a bad “THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS IF…” PSA.  In this case, Bereavement refuses to stop reiterating the “violence desensitizes children” warning so many therapists advocate.  Be it one of Graham’s little gems of wisdom or a teacher lecturing on the impact of violence regulated children, the writers just won’t let you forget the point of the film.  Need I remind you there’s scene after scene of a child watching a young girl be slashed up like a butcher to a pig? Oh, yeah, I NEVER would have gotten the point if you didn’t strap me down, unhinged my jaw, and shove it directly down my feed hole.  Sorry, I forgot audiences are mindless drones now a days with the mental capacity of a peanut.  God forbid a script be challenging and not spoon fed.

But on top of that, Bereavement wasn’t even the least bit rewarding.  I’ve watched many a horror film just to get to some epic realization or some trippy breakthrough. Sorry, Bereavement isn’t one of those.  I could call plot points out twenty minutes before they occurred in this safe horror thriller.   Mena does not create a tense atmosphere, showing so many scenes of a girl practicing for her first cross-country meet or a Southern bumpkin putting an addition on his house.  Why they had to cast Michael Biehn as “man who is constantly hammering wood” really doesn’t make much sense as his presence didn’t bring any integrity to the film.  None of the other performers impress all that much either now that I think about it, and we’re set to sit through another stiffly acted sleeper. The relationship between Graham and Martin is supposed in project a situational horror, as the old man is grooming this young child to be a killer.  Instead, we get loads of poorly written dialogue as Graham lectures to the mute Martin, and the exchanges become less and less exciting.  The film struggles to give you a taste of how royally messed up the situation actually is, and feels more like a bad after school video than reality.  What should have been the centerpiece of Bereavement plays a tad safe at times, as the relationship could have sunk into a much darker place than created.

Due to recent experiences, it’s hard to get hyped for these more underground horror films anymore.  Bereavement struggles to show any stand out qualities, and falls into so many of the same horror clichés we see over and over again.  Quick question, if you were trying to open the door a poor girl was trapped behind, there was a window you could see her in, and she was frantically pointing behind you and looking increasingly panicked…at any time would you think to turn around?  No?  Maybe?  Just in case?  Please, we’re supposed to believe this dumbass teen has NO idea what the damsel in distress is trying to convey with her actions?  It’s inevitable to run into these overused clichés multiple times in any horror film, but the true test is seeing how the film deals with them. Bereavement offers zero creativity in this aspect, and is happy using the same cheap overused blueprints.  The obvious ending is reason enough to let me down, as again the inevitability of the situation is created in the very first minutes.  Set up like a surprise, the climax’s only real repayment comes from the peace of mind in knowing Bereavement finally is reaching a close.  Chalk up another loss in my search for competent horror, as this torture flick fails to make me squirm in the least bit possible.

Final Rating: 3.5 talking cattle skulls out of 10

Wish I knew why this was actually important to the film…felt like an unfinished plot device the writers didn’t even really want to explore…might have missed it though while  I was twiddling my thumbs…


About Matt Donato

I love all things film. I'll watch any genre, any actor, at any time. This whole film critic thing is a passionate hobby for now which I'm balancing with working in the business world, but hey, someday, who knows?
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1 Response to Bereavement

  1. Pingback: Worst of 2011 Horror | Cinema Scrutiny

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