Anchor Bay // 2010 // 107 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // August 19th, 2011
If they have no feelings, they can't know fear.
Bereavement is a meandering bit of bucolic torture porn with a few interesting ideas but an overall, "been-there/killed-that" feel.
Bereavement gives us the story of insane Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby, On the Doll) who kidnaps a young boy, Martin (Spencer List, Offspring). Martin has a rare ailment that makes him insensitive to pain, so Sutter can slap, burn, and cut the boy all he wants.
But Sutter is a serial killer, and what he seems to actually want is an heir. He keeps Martin in the abandoned Sutter family meat packing plant he calls home, and for five years, grooms the boy until it's time to start hunting victims.
In the meantime, teenage Allison (Alexandra Daddario, Hall Pass) moves in with her uncle (Michael Biehn, The Terminator) and his family after the death of her parents. The athletic Allison is having trouble adjusting to her new, rural surroundings (she was a track star in Chicago, but her new hinterlands high school has no sports program for girls). She strikes up a friendship with troubled local boy William (Nolan Gerard Funk, Deadgirl), but her uncle doesn't want her hanging out with "that trash."
While Graham and Martin busy themselves abusing and killing a steady stream of nondescript lovelies, Allison acts like a typical disaffected teen and carries on a forbidden romance with dullard William.
Until, of course, the inevitable crossing of paths of teen girl and serial slayer.
With Bereavement, Director Stevan Mena offers up a prequel to his earlier film, Malevolence, which told the tale the murderous teenage Martin. While the earlier film was, evidently, a more straight slasher, Mena was hoping for something deeper here, something that explored the psychology of a killer.
Unfortunately, Bereavement is a tedious and unremarkable genre exercise with a cookie-cutter villain, regulation slaughter, and lots and lots of needless padding.
The twist is the involvement of a 10-year-old, and it's certainly uncomfortable watching a child being abused, albeit a child who cannot feel pain and therefore does not react to the abuse. But Martin's condition -- which is a real but rare affliction -- seems to serve no purpose other than to allow Mena to film disturbing scenes of the boy being cut, burned, and beaten with the safety net of, "he's not feeling it anyway."
The notion of a child being groomed for evil is inherently horrifying, but Mena's groomer goes the tried and true route of most horror heavies. Sutter is a character right out of Movie Serial Killer 101, including a "bad dad" complex (evidently, Sutter senior was mean, wouldn't let his son go to school, and slaughtered his favorite cow) and religious issues (he's got some kind of Christ-crucified steer-skull totem that he talks to and does a lot of pseudo-spiritual babbling). And, of course, growing up in a slaughterhouse makes people crazy...
For movie serial killers to rise above the glut, they either have to be prolific or (even better) have some kind of compelling motive (Hello, Jigsaw! Hey, John Doe!). But Mena doesn't bother giving Sutter a unique M.O. His victims are the requisite attractive young women without any particular distinguishing traits -- he's not, for instance, targeting blonde floozies because his father ran off with a blonde floozy or anything like that. Additionally, his capture methods aren't particularly artful; in fact, the one we see is pretty clumsy, with Sutter blocking a woman's car in a crowded parking lot, clobbering her when she complains, and stuffing her in his big truck with the words SUTTER MEATS in big letters on the side. Strangely, particularly since this is set in a small town in rural Pennsylvania, no one even talks about the missing women, and there's no police investigation either.
It's all just the same old business of seeing women trussed up and maimed. Mena does offer up a few surprises in his third act, with a fairly grim run to the finish line, but the denouement is as expected, and the downbeat, tries-to-be-ironic ending aided mightily by a police department whose forensic science skills seem mired in the 17th Century. Despite the presence of Biehn and, in a cameo bit, John Savage (The Deer Hunter), the whole secondary story involving Allison and her problems is just the standard final-girl set-up and your basic, uninvolving filler between kills.
Anchor Bay, as is its wont, turns out an impressive disc. The picture and audio are fine, as you'd expect from a recent film. For supplements, there's a commentary by Mena, a couple of "behind the scenes" featurettes, deleted scenes, a stills gallery, TV spots, and a trailer.
A pretty standard slasher that tries to be more important than it is, Bereavement is yet another tired entry in the hopefully waning torturesploitation genre.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* TrueHD 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 107 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R