WRETCHED REVIEWS: “BEREAVEMENT” (2011)
Starring Alexandra Daddario, Michael Biehn and Brett Rickaby
Written and directed by Stevan Mena
Anchor Bay Entertainment
The prospect of reviewing Bereavement did not tickle my fancy. It’s a prequel, you see, to Malevolence, the first in director Steven Mena’s proposed trilogy. But Malevolence was awful, a clichéd bore which took its allegiance to ‘80s slasher films so seriously that it would have been an exercise in redundancy and slavishness back in 1983. So I held out little hope that a return to that bloodstained universe would yield much in the way of entertainment. Who knew that going back in time would also rewrite my opinion of Mena’s talent?
Malevolence concerned bank robbers being picked off one by one by a masked psychopath who, we learn, was himself kidnapped a decade earlier by a deranged killer who made him witness his crimes. Bereavement fills in the intervening years, showing us the kidnapping of young Martin Bristol (Spencer List) from his small-town Pennsylvania home back in 1989 by Graham Sutton (Rickaby), an insane recluse who uses his family’s remote and shuttered meat packing plant to torture and murder young women in a misguided bid for salvation. In turn, Graham attempts to turn Martin into his apprentice and pseudo-son.
Flash forward five years and we turn our attention to Allison (Daddario). The teenaged niece of Jonathan Miller (Biehn: The Terminator) has moved in with her uncle and his family after the death of her parents. A long-distance runner, she stumbles upon the old Sutton place one afternoon and spots Martin in a window. From here, it becomes obvious that Allison will end up as Sutton’s next victim, but will Martin be her saviour or her killer?
At first it seems like Mena has merely exchanged one worn-out genre (slasher films) for another (torture porn), but Bereavement soon reveals itself to be a surprisingly intriguing character piece with an awful sense of inevitability hanging over it. Brett Rickaby imbues his psychopathic killer with a degree of humanity not seen since Anthony Perkins stunned audiences in Psycho, and we spend enough time with Daddario as Allison to feel real pathos as her character nears tragedy.
Perhaps the greatest praise I can heap on Bereavement is that I no longer view the prospect of a third film as the unkindest cut of all.