It's difficult to care about people who are all so stupid.
Reviewed for CompuServe by Harvey Karten
Directed By: Stevan Mena
Written By: Stevan Mena
Cast: Michael Biehn, Alexandra Daddario, John Savage, Nolan Gerard Funk
Screened at: Park Ave.Screening Room, New York, 1/24/11
Opens: March 4, 2011
In the production notes, director Stevan Mena states that he makes sure the audience knows something about the characters because we can care for them more when they're stabbed or bludgeoned or knocked over the head with a shovel. However knowing that a seventeen-year-old's parents were killed in a car accident, requiring her to stay unwilling at her uncle's home is not exactly "knowing" about a character. The folks who get killed are stupid to a fault, taking away another motivation for caring about them.
Mena's "Bereavement" is a prequel to his "Malevolence," which found Martin Bristol ten years post-kidnapping where he was abducted while playing on a swing. "Bereavement" takes us to Martin as a child in 1989 in Minersville, Pennsylvania, a remote area overlooking a secondary highway whose only traffic is an insane killer's truck and a teen with a motorcycle, a far cry from the traffic jams of the seventeen-year-old girl's Chicago home. Five years have passed: Martin Bristol (played by Chase Pechacek and later by Spencer List) was spared by the psychotic Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby), used to mop up the blood after the many stabbings that occured in Sutter's "home" (actually a former slaughterhouse that was abandoned in the 1970s). The boy, apparently a victim of Stockholm Syndrome, also aids his master in hooking up the victims, who are hung as though just-laundered clothes, feel dangling above ground, screaming and waiting for their executions. When Allison (Alexandra Daddario), now staying with her uncle Jonathan (Michael Biehn) and aunt Karen (Kathryn Meisle) and small child Wendy (Peyton List), jogs past the slaughterhouse, spotting Martin through a window, she is to encounter worse luck than she had when accepting a motorcycle ride from William (Nolan Gerard Funk), whose dad Ted (John Savage) lives in a wheelchair as a result of an accident on his construction job.
"Bereavement" was whittled down from a three-hour film, the goriest parts removed-though one wonder how much more gore could have been filmed after the multiple stabbings, clubbing, a shooting, even the plunging of a knife into the hand of young Martin. Did I mention that Martin has no nerve endings, so he feels no pain?
The story is filled with stupid people, particularly Allison, who at seventeen years should know not to bolt into a house that's on fire and not to waste time tying a rag around the wound of a kidnapped lad when every second counts if she is to get away. The killer rants and raves with monologues that are considerably dumber than the ones we've been exposed to by Jared Loughner, the gunman in the tragic shootings in the Tucson supermarket who took six lives. In putting together the script for this slasher/horror film, writer-director Mena should take a clue from Eli Roth whose "Hostel 2," filmed in the Czech Republic to stand in for Slovakia, unfolds genuine complexity in his plot which features people around the world who bid money for the chance to torture four beautiful college students.
Rated R. 103 minutes. © 2011 by Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online