Review: Bereavement / Cert: 18 / Director: Stevan Mena / Screenplay: Steven Mena / Starring: Alexandra Daddario, Spencer List, Brett Rickaby, Michael Biehn / Release Date: October 1st
Stranger danger! Strangers don't get much more dangerous than serial killer Graham Sutter, who kidnaps a young boy with a mind to styling the child into his protégée. What prevents this from feeling too much like an episode of Criminal Minds is the fact that Bereavement is a prequel to the critically acclaimed Malevolence.
Malevolence was an intelligent, taut slasher movie that was fun but unworthy of the Halloween comparisons it frequently received. Bereavement heads to the past to document how Malevolence's killer came into being. We see Martin Bristol as an exceptionally stupid child, kidnapped by Sutter after the psychopath offers him a bicycle. Sutter is your archetypal maniac, even going so far as to use a burlap sack to ferry his captive about. He lives in a dilapidated country house with an enormous basement and a walk-in refrigerator that does a great job of preserving one's leftovers (not last week's takeaway, either).
Little Martin isn't the only captive in Sutter's basement – there's a veritable conga line of distressed damsels just waiting to be chained up against his wall, one after the other. One thing his basement is lacking is a roll of duct tape – there's a lot of very loud shrieking and screaming in Bereavement, so much so that it would even put The Hills Have Eyes' Brenda to shame.
But as the title would suggest, its themes go beyond kidnapping and serial murder – the story focuses as much on the plight of Allison, a recently orphaned teenager sent to live with uptight uncle Michael Biehn. While it sounds like a laugh, living with the father of John Connor, this is Biehn in a more serious, dour mood than he was in Terminator or Aliens. Although he has learned some better (less scary) parenting skills than he displayed in Cherry Falls. His protectiveness proves warranted, anyway – it's not long before Allison falls before Sutter's sinister eye.
Bereavement is very worthy and atmospheric, but its story leaves something to be desired. A little gore aside, it’s nothing that horror fans won't have seen elsewhere. Unless you're going in forearmed with the knowledge (and you will be now) you might not even realise it's a prequel. The more interesting aspects manage to make Bereavement salvageable. All of the actors are good – even young Spencer List, playing confused captive Martin. Alexandra Daddario is sympathetic as Allison – a fine foil to Sutter's scary psychopath. Michael Biehn is reliably good, if underused. Despite its low budget, the film looks great. The dingy basement and sparse American farmlands rack up the atmosphere and tension enough that the lacklustre story doesn't matter quite so much.
Bereavement is a well-made but grim and humourless addition to the already inflated psycho thriller subgenre. Alas, not even the mighty Michael Biehn can save it from dull forgetability.
Special Features: None