Featuring enough gratuitous gore and half-nude female victims to satisfy the core horror audience, Bereavement offers little of interest to anyone else. Steven Mena’s sequel of sorts to his well regarded Malevolence is certainly more stylishly filmed and technically accomplished than many others of its ilk, but the final result is a reasonably ordinary slasher film.
Set in rural Pennsylvania (evocatively photographed in suitably barren style by D.P. Marco Cappetta), the film depicts the serial killings of beautiful young women by Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby), a crazed recluse who lives in an abandoned slaughterhouse that is a perfect environment for his particular obsession.
Five years earlier, he had kidnapped six-year-old Martin (Spencer List), who possesses a genetic abnormality that prevents him from feeling physical pain. The young boy serves as his accomplice for his nefarious deeds, in a sort of depraved mentoring relationship.
A parallel storyline concerns recently orphaned seventeen-year-old Allison (Alexandra Daddario, recently seen in Percy Jackson and the Olympians and as the flirtatious babysitter in Hall Pass), who comes to live with her Uncle Jonathan (Michael Biehn) and his wife (Kathryn Meisle) and young daughter. She quickly strikes up a flirtation with a motorcycle-riding bad boy (Nolan Gerard Funk) who lives with his partially paralyzed father (John Savage).
When Allison spots young Martin in a window of the slaughterhouse, her suspicions are raised, leading to the inevitable violent showdown in which more than a few of the characters meet untimely fates.
Mena, who also scripted, clearly intends for the film to have deeper thematic resonance than the usual slasher flick, with its depictions of dysfunctional families and such digressions as a classroom discussion about the significance of nature vs. nurture.
But the film is ultimately all too familiar in its horror movie plot mechanics and the near pornographic depictions of the killer’s repeated knife thrusts into his well-endowed female victims.
Despite its effectively spooky atmospherics and the good performances by the better than average cast, Bereavement is ultimately no cause for celebration.
Opens: March 18 (Crimson Films)
Production: Aurilia Arts Productions
Cast: Michael Biehn, Alexandra Daddario, Brett Rickaby, John Savage, Nolan Gerard Funk, Spencer List, Kathryn Meisle, Valentina De Angelis
Director/screenwriter/producer/editor/music: Steven Mena
Executive producer: Vincent Butta
Director of photography: Marco Cappetta
Production designer: Jack Ryan
Costume designer: Charlotte Kruse
Rated R, 103 mins.