Saturday, October 8, 2011
In this prequel to the 2005 horror movie Malevolence, we learn the origin of that film's killer. As boy, he is abducted by a religious nut serial killer, who believes that the creepy cow skull in his house commands him to kidnap and murder young women as some sort of means for atoning for previous sins. The boy, who intriguingly cannot feel pain, is forced to become the man's assistant in his crimes. Meanwhile, a young woman, moving in with her extended family after a personal tragedy, finds herself in close proximity to the killer.
I know, guys, your prayers have been answered. Put on your official Malevolence T shirts and baseball hats, pack a lunch in your Malevolence lunch box, pour yourself a Coke in your clear plastic McDonald's Malevolence glasses, and go ahead and take down your vision board where you've been trying to will a Malevolence sequel into existence for the past 6 years, because they finally did it. They finally made a follow up to perhaps the defining horror film of our generation.
OK, enough snark. I barely even remember Malevolence from whenever I saw it 5 or 6 years ago, except that I thought it was terrible. It was a particularly dull slasher movie with perversely unlikable characters (they were bank robbers who spent the whole movie shouting and being assholes), and a "twist" ending that didn't really seem to add or explain anything. I was kinda stunned anyone even remembered the movie enough that there would be an audience for a sequel. But I was even more stunned to find out that, holy shit, Bereavement was actually a pretty good horror movie.
Director/Writer/Producer/Editor/Composer/probably also the Caterer Stevan Mena (who gives himself a few too many credits during the opening; dude, either condense that shit or start using pseudonyms like John Carpenter) has clearly learned a thing or two in the last 6 years. Bereavement is, more or less, a slasher movie, but one with an uncommonly melancholy atmosphere, a nice feel for suspense, and a surprising focus on character development and themes. It doesn't break any new ground, per se, but it does what it does quite well. It spends long stretches not only with the killer and his new protege, but also fleshing out the heroine and her relationship with her family, especially her uncle (played by Michael Biehn!). This will probably make the movie a little too slow or dull for casual viewers, but I appreciated the fact that we're given more of a chance to learn about and care for the characters. There's also some ambitious themes in the film, mostly dealing with the old nature vs. nurture debate. (Sadly, there's one scene where they spell it all out a little too heavy-handedly in the dialogue, but I'm willing to give them a pass on that part).
Not perfect by any means, Bereavement is just a real horror movie in an era of half-assed crap. The ending doesn't really have the impact it should (for one, if you've seen Malevolence, then you already know there's only one way this can turn out), but the stakes still feel greater than they usually do in these things, and you're genuinely upset to see the characters meet their demise, instead of eagerly awaiting the next murder scene. I still haven't found an honest to goodness great horror movie this month (or even a minor classic), but this is as good as anything I've watched so far, and I'm glad my memories of the original didn't keep me away.