Director – Stevan Mena
Cast – Alexandra Daddario, Brett Rickaby, Michael Biehn, Spencer List, Nolan Gerard Funk, Kathryn Meisle, Peyton List, John Savage
Release Year – 2011
Reviewed by John of the Dead
I came across Bereavement while raiding a Red Box in search of some horror films my readers may come across while buying booze/tobacco/condoms (which Red Boxes are always conveniently located near) and deciding to pick up a horror flick to complete the cycle of pleasure items. Looking at the cover and reading the plot summary I figured this would be an unfavorable film, but I took the plunge anyway and was quite surprised with the results. While the story has many faults that held the film back at times, director Steven Mena gives us one of the goriest films of 2011, which in the end helped make up for the numerous writing faults.
Bereavement chronicles the young life of Martin Bristol, a 6 year old suffering from a rare condition in which he feels no pain, who is kidnapped from his backyard swing and forced to watch and participate in the brutal murders of young local women by a deranged madman.
When Bereavement began I thought to myself “this film feels familiar”, but it was not until after the film that my feeling made sense to me, when I saw that this film came from Steven Mena, who gave us Malevolence in 2004 – one of the worst date-night films you can use, which I learned from personal experience. Nonetheless, Mena steps up his game with Bereavement, giving us a sinister tale that delivers plenty of gory goodness that I was very much appreciative of, and also gives us a prequel effort to Malevolence (which I did not know of going into the film).
The storyline is where nearly all of the faults lie, and while I enjoyed the overall idea of a young child being forcefully hardened into a grisly killer, the writing felt sloppy at times. For starters, it took a long while for Mena’s story to make it apparent to the viewer what exactly young Martin’s role is in the film, as he battles several other prominent characters who steal his thunder. Allison Miller(Alexandra Daddario), an orphaned girl who moves to the small town under the care of her uncle, Jonathan Miller(Michael Biehn; Aliens, Planet Terror, They Wait, The Abyss, Terminator), played the film’s true prominent role, until she eventually fell from importance in favor of Martin. Some of you may enjoy this character play, but I fully believe that the vast majority will find this tactic, or better yet, lazy screenwriting, as annoying to say the least. I was really disappointed in how he used Jonathan Miller, who seemed to have been merely thrown into the film to provide some slight conflict for Allison, but ultimately he was one of several characters who added much less to the story than he could have. The usage of the man who kidnapped Martin was fair, and I found it awesome to watch him force the young boy to witness and eventually participate in some very gruesome acts. Mena’s character play towards the end of the film was great, as he played with our minds and hearts in giving us some shocking kills and sad outcomes that left a very dark and gloomy feel. He also managed to throw in plenty of kill sequences and most of them in graphic nature, so in a sense he managed to keep my attention and interest with what is ultimately most important to me…the horror.
Mena’s direction was a big improvement over his direction in Malevolence, although he seems to still have his “style” that left me knowing right away that I had come across this dude before. His sets are great and his atmosphere gloomy and sad, which along with a good musical score mirrored the subject matter. The character performances are positive, however the kill sequences are the film’s biggest selling point. His execution of the kills was full-frontal and unrelenting as he gave us front row seats to every knife plunge, scream, and gory mess made by the demented man and his young pupil Martin, which will guarantee to leave strong images in your head for quite some time, even if you did not personally enjoy the film.
Overall, Bereavement is a film that could have been excellent had it not been for many faults involving the uninspired character-play of Steven Mena, but his direction and numerous incredibly well-executed kill sequences made for a borderline-positive experience that is sure to leave many gore soaked and sad memories with you when the credits roll.