After Allison's parents are killed in a car accident, she moves in with her uncle Johnathan and his family outside of Minersville, Penn. Nearby, however, is an abandoned meatpacking plant home to our resident psycho killer, Graham Sutter. Grahman has kidnapped a young boy named Martin Bristol, who suffers from a condition called CIPA (congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis). Graham has kidnapped Martin to raise him as a psychotic killer himself, and forces Martin to watch as he brutally tortures and murders numerous women. Once Allison discovers the plant and Martin, however, things take a turn.
In 2005, Stevan Mena brought us MALEVOLENCE, a slick little slasher shot for less than $200K that garnered him mucho praise and awards for his efforts. The film was intended to be part of a trilogy, but Mena's next film, BRUTAL MASSACRE: A COMEDY, went for a 180° flip as a black comedy involving Gunnar Hansen and that guy from CLERKS. But finally, after six years of waiting, Mena returns with the second installment in his Martin Bristol trilogy in BEREAVEMENT, a prequel to the first film. Do we still get the mean-spirited yet smart slasher follow-up we've been waiting for? Oh yes, we have!
Keeping up with the smart writing of the first film (and exceeding it), a common theme in BEREAVEMENT is the idea of unstable or broken relationships between parents and their children. Every character in the movie is coming to terms with some sort of pain caused by their parents or their children. The idea is sold even more through the well-developed characters and the excellent performances by everyone involved. The standout for me was Spencer List's performance as Martin, who had the tough task of selling his character through actions and mannerisms without the aid of any dialogue. Not an easy task, the kid pulled through and sold me as someone who's a prisoner but at the same time is free to escape. It's all about the psychosis. Others turn in great performances as well, such as Alexandra Daddario as Allison provide a convincing teen heroine, while Brett Rickaby is oh-so-good as the unhinged Graham Sutter. The scene in Allison's uncle's farmhouse once Sutter arrives is chilling, to say the least. Bottom line, you care about these characters and what they're going through.
Aside from the great story and great characters, Mena also proves to be equally awesome when it comes to other aspects of the film. Mena's score for the film is decidedly foreboding and eerie, and perfectly accompanies the onscreen horror. The film also has a great look to it, thanks in part to the camerawork by cinematographer Marco Cappetta. This film really takes advantage of the locale, turning a pleasant rural country setting with wide open skies into one that's dark and decayed like the Sutter's abandoned slaughterhouse lair. As for the kills themselves, they are appropriately brutal and nasty, but don't rely on the gore to get the job done. I know some reviews pegged the film as another "torture porn" entry, but instead of relishing in the gore, the film implies a lot of what's transpiring. Don't get me wrong, there's still blood, but it's all done in a way that has your mind going gonzo, which is always a great thing.
Any sort of negatives that I have with the film would be minor. On occasion, there are instances of suspect decisions by some characters, as well as some questions regarding logic by the townspeople involving the lack of law enforcement and the disappearance of a number of women. Also, as you probably guessed, the film takes its time getting things in order, developing characters and the story before unleashing hell. Some viewers might want a little less preppin' and little more stabbin', but that's not this film's M.O.
Once the credits hit the screen, BEREAVEMENT surpasses MALEVOLENCE in a number of ways. The film provides a great story with great characters with equally-great performances by everyone involved. The film may not be to every slasher fan's liking, since this one caters to those who care about development in character and story than just having throwaways for the meat machine. Mena also provides a great score and some great environments for the film to play in, which only sucks you in even more. You owe it to yourself to see this film, which honestly is a pinnacle of achievement in indie horror.
Video: Anchor Bay serves up BEREAVEMENT in a great-looking AVC-encoded 1080p 2.40:1 widescreen transfer. Shot on 35mm, the transfer boasts some great colour with just the slightest bit of grain. Detail is excellent, and the blacks are nice and dark. Superb.
Audio: The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track matches up with the video as an immersive and atmospheric track. Dialogue is crisp and clear, with Mena's great score to help with the tension and unease.
First up is an audio commentary with writer/producer/director Stevan Mena. Mena spends the commentary talking about the less-understood aspects of the film (namely the reasoning behind some of the character motivations), the editing out sections of the film, the various changes that he made while shooting, as well as just being all-around informative. It's a rather interesting commentary track, though Mena tends to be a bit on the dry side.
Following that is The Making Of Bereavement. Clocking in at just over a half-hour, the doc is one that assumes you've already seen the film (spoiler alert!), but also offers up ethusiastic cast and crew views about the project. It's also quite entertaining, particularly when it comes to focusing the camera on Michael Biehn.
First Look: On The Set probably should have been rolled into the making of documentary, since it covers things in a more EPK style via a mix of Stevan Mena, producer Tom Bambard and cast interviews.
Following those featurettes are a collection of deleted scenes consisting of little character bits that are assumed to have been cut for pacing purposes.
Rounding things up is a still montage of on-set photos and the film's TV Spot and trailer.
There are also start-up trailers for MALEVOLENCE, BRUTAL MASSACRE, MEDIUM RAW: NIGHT OF THE WOLF and CYRUS: MIND OF A SERIAL KILLER.
BEREAVEMENT is great. Great characters, great script, great acting and great at putting you through the slasher wringer. Mena has outdone himself with this one, and it's a no-brainer that you should see this smart slasher of character exploration and madness. The extras from Anchor Bay cap off a great set that definitely should make this one a must-buy.