Stevan Mena’s Bereavement is 2010 American horror-thriller feature film.
This is essentially a study of nature vs. nurture in serial killers, with psychotic Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby) kidnapping six-year-old Martin (Spencer List) at the start of the proceedings. Martin suffers from a condition that prevents him from feeling physical pain, though it’s unclear how the deranged Sutter knows that. The kidnapper makes the child act as witness and accomplice in the torture of assorted kidnapped young women while babbling crazily to unseen and likely non-existent forces – one of several moments of plot mystery that simply go nowhere except perhaps to Malevolence.
There’s the potential for an intense, claustrophobic story of extreme horror and brutalisation here – both of the kidnapped girls physically and the young boy emotionally. Unfortunately, this is rather watered down into a more mainstream horror tale, as we are introduced to teenage Alexandra Daddario as Allison, a girl recently moved into the small town where Sutter plys his trade after the death of her parents.
The film perhaps needed a fresh character for us to relate to, but invariably it gets bogged down in rather clichéd stuff with Allison butting heads with her uncle and new guardian (Michael Biehn, wasted in a completely bland role) and forming a relationship with misunderstood local bad boy William (Nolan Gerrard Funk). It’s not that any of this is badly done, but it does tend to bog the film down in standard slasher territory – Allison is clearly the Last Girl who Sutter will try to kill during the finale of the film.
Her presence is, of course, necessary to give the film its final moments and to show how Martin has become his kidnapper’s creation (this is hardly a spoiler, given that he is the psycho killer of Malevolence). But I can’t help thinking how much more effective it would’ve been if this was someone who had a prior relationship to the child – his mother, a sister – rather than simply some busty hotty in a tight white vest.
Sutter, at least, is a refreshingly multi-faceted killer, tormented by his (imaginary?) demons and filled with guilt about his actions one moment, seemingly relishing them the next. It’s a pity that the film doesn’t take us deeper into his own psyche – this is one film where you would appreciate some background context for his murderous behaviour.
Mena does, thankfully, confound expectations from time to time. The characters you expect to be heroic meet brutal and sudden ends – something not so common in your modern horror film where the Final Girl is often joined by several friends. And the end of the movie is suitably brutal and downbeat, with a brief but telling moment showing the effect on the family of one Sutter victim. Yet there are unresolved plot moments that presumably lead to the earlier film, but are baffling if you haven’t seen that.
In the end, Bereavement is a well-crafted, ambitious, often very gory and savage horror film that isn’t quite as good as it should yet remain well worth a viewing.
David Flint, MOV!ES and MAN!A