Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bereavement (2011)

Fear 3/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 3/5
Creepiness 3/5

Bereavement is a film I've followed for awhile now as it's made its way through multiple festivals. Along with that, I've read a handful of reviews that have come out, most of which were full of effusive praise. Needless to say, I was intrigued by the premise and the claim that it has 'reinvented' the psycho/serial killer sub-genre. While it does have some interesting ideas, there was a huge logic gap that became too much to ignore and the film ended up being a mixed bag for me.

Our story begins with a young boy, outside in his backyard on a swing. His mother's inside the house, telling the soon-to-be babysitter about his remarkable condition. Namely, he has no sense of pain and can be virtually stabbed, beaten, and sliced without any sort of reaction. Basically, his pain receptors are dead. After that revelation, we cut to the boy in the backyard and a mysterious man approaches him claiming he needs help with getting ride of a bike and that he thinks the boy is the perfect candidate for it. Instead of gifting the boy, he throws him into his van and drives off.

Flash forward a few years and a young twenties something girl is dropped off at her aunt and uncles house. We learn that she is mourning the loss of her mother and father, the victims of a car accident. Along with her cousin, they welcome her in to help her cope and get her life back on track.

It's soon revealed who this man is that abducted the young boy. He's a bit of a hermit, hiding out in an old meat packing plant that his family used to run. But it doesn't stop there. It seems that he has a penchant for young girls, physically beating and bringing them back to the plant. Good intentions are not the order of the day and he strings them up and tortures them for awhile until a final death blow is deemed necessary. As he does so, the now older young boy watches on, with a shy and reserved but ultimately morbid curiosity.

Eventually, the paths of our mourning young girl and the killer cross and she's put into the same position as so many other girls. A local man and her uncle come to her rescue but without any success. And just when it seems like she is going to get out alive, the young boy fully 'turns' and becomes the same monster as the man that he observes daily.

I liked the kind of master/servant nature of the film with the boy going all Michael Myers-like at the end. Reviews that have taken issue with the film, point out the relative lack of motive behind the main killer's deeds. Other than some bible-like rhetoric and talking to the skulls of longhorn cows which are mounted throughout the plant, there really isn't a motive to be found. That didn't bother me so much as I'm not the type that needs sound reasoning spoon fed as long as the acting is convincing. And actor John Savage did just that, doing a phenomenal job playing the killer. I accepted him at face value as just being a fucked-up, crazy guy.

What did bother me, and what presented a substantial logic gap that I could not get over, is the fact that at no time, did ANYONE suspect this man of being a potential suspect. In this small town, with girls going missing left and right, and with a strange guy driving around an old time meat delivery truck and shacking up in his parents abandoned plant, not one single word was uttered about this man being strange or suspect. Not to mention the fact that it's obvious that he's been doing this for quite some time and it's not just some hobby he picked up recently to pass the time.

The film is expertly made and is definitely worth a watch. But I'm not convinced that this is the horror classic everyone is raving about. Sorry Charlie, but that logic gap is Mt. Everest big.

Cortez the Killer


Jeffery said...

Aah! This is what happens when movies are made by focus groups and test screenings..The least offensive watered down version emerges at the top of the pond with the floaters. It's a pity really!
Great review! Cheers!

Mike Snoonian said...

This was/is one of my favorite films of the year. A couple clarifications with some of the issues you had:

1. Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby btw)wasn't pulling victims from a local area-he was driving far outside his home to more densely populated areas to pull his victims from. Remember-in his own area you could travel 2-3 miles before coming upon a neighbor.

2. As far as motivation goes-watching the animals led to slaughter at the meat packing plant is what drove him insane. Hence the mantra he repeats throughout the film.

I just feel this is so much better put together than your standard slasher flick and Mena is someone that knows his Carpenter without stealing from him.

King Cripple said...

I wrote about this one, too, because I liked a lot of its ideas, but I didn't think it was as great as the hype made it out to be. I didn't have an issue with the lack of suspicion toward Sutter, as police ineptitude is a common element of slashers. I did have an issue, however, with why Allison would ever go into Sutter's home after she sees a kid looking out from inside, who, as far as she knows, has EVERY RIGHT TO BE THERE. I also thought the film had way too many narratives. Billy, the local guy and possible love interest, could've been completely eliminated or significantly trimmed and nothing would've been lost from the film.

@Mike - I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you listened to the directors commentary, which was highly entertaining and also quite explanatory. I say this because I'd be surprised if you interpreted Sutter's drive during the credit sequence as a demonstration of him "hunting" miles away from his home, which is what Mena explains it as in his commentary. I'll agree that this film is better than the "average" slasher, but I'd also quantify the average slasher these days as horror's lowest common denominator (i.e., blood, boobs, kills). A little bit of ambition is all it took to elevate this film above the crowd. I'll still probably check out the third installment in this series when it's available, as Mena is a quality filmmaker with plenty of ideas.

Planet of Terror said...

@Jeffrey, I wouldn't say this film is watered down, just some really glaring plot holes.

@Mike, thanks for the correction on the actor. I must have been crossed eyed when reading IMDB.

So even if he did venture out a bit he still wasn't exactly inconspicuous. All this time and NO ONE suspected or saw some dude in a rickety old van who beats women and drags them off? I just had a hard time believing this glaring plot point.

As for the 'why' behind the killer, that really didn't bug me so much. I think your explanation fits but I didn't get that from the dialogue. To me, it just sounded like random crazy talk.

@King Cripple, possible police ineptitude aside, I didn't take this film as your garden variety slasher. So being a far more serious film, it made it harder to believe that no one, not even the uncle (Michael Biehn) was the least bit suspicious.

Also, good point about the little boy and Allison making a decision to go in and 'save' him.