Bereavement is the prequel to the 2004 film Malevolence, both directed by Stevan Mena. Malevolence split audiences right in half. A lot of fans really enjoyed it as an homage to slasher films of the past, most recognizably John Carpenter’s Halloween. For some though, it borrowed far too heavily to ignore. Admittedly, right down to the score, it felt like a carbon copy of Carpenter’s iconic film in certain scenes, but some people, myself included felt like it offered up enough of it’s own qualities to stand on its own feet.
The opening of Malevolence shows a young boy, kidnapped from his backyard, brought to an abandoned meat processing facility and forced to witness horrific acts of torture and murder. The film then flashes forward a decade or so, and follows a group of people as they commit a bank robbery. The house they decided to take refuge in while splitting up the money happens to be right next to said meat processing facility. We are then reintroduced to Martin, the little boy who was kidnapped earlier in the film. Bereavement goes back in time, before the goings on of the first film, and gives the viewer a better look at what happened to Martin between then and now.
Most prequels are crafted solely for the purpose of cashing in on the success of the original film. This means cheap conventions, and ham-fisted attempts at connecting the two films. In the case of Bereavement, it not only does an excellent job at connecting the films but actually feels genuine, as if the story was meant to be told this way. The beauty of it is that it could also work well for anyone who hasn’t seen Malevolence. Though it certainly adds to the experience to be familiar, at least somewhat, with the basic story, you won’t feel like you’re missing something if you’re not. It’s one of the first prequels I’ve seen that’s managed to accomplish that, at least as effectively as Mena has done here.
One of the faults I found in Malevolence is that for such a long buildup, the pay-off wasn’t nearly as epic as it should have been. I truly enjoy slow burning films. The House Of The Devil is one of my all time favorites, but if you’re aiming for this style of storytelling, you better make damn sure that your final act is spectacular. In the case of Malevolence, it was okay, but the end didn’t justify the means, so to speak. This has been completely rectified in Bereavement. While it’s still very much a slow paced, character driven film, the final act of the film left me speechless for several minutes after the credits rolled. I’m actually thankful that it had such an impact on me, because if I weren’t sitting on my couch with my jaw hanging wide open, I might not have known that there’s a scene after the credits, that even further connects this prequel to the first film.
The performances in the film are all outstanding, but the stand-out performance for me has to be from Alexandra Daddario. Alexandra is no newbie to the screen, she has what could be considered some AAA blockbusters under her belt, and has several more on the horizon. This is the first role I’ve seen her in of this nature though, and she has everything it requires to become a legendary scream queen. She’s got the acting chops, she’s got the lungs, she’s got great on-screen presence. On top of all that, if I were to make a list of top 10 tank tops of cinema history, Alexandra would be #2, right below Bruce Willis. Alexandra has what appears to be a major role in the upcoming 3D TCM sequel, and I can only see her career going uphill from here.
Something I’m sure most of you are wondering is how the quality of the kills are. While I won’t get into the details of specific kills, weapons used, who bites it who doesn’t, I will say that the special effects look spectacular. Some kills are shown off-screen, relying mostly on the sound design and great looking fake blood to illustrate the death, but there is also plenty of unflinching, hyper-violent on-screen carnage as well; enough to wet the whistle of even the most jaded genre fan.
The film looks great on Blu-ray. It’s gritty when it needs to be, but there are plenty of beautiful wide shots of the Pennsylvania landscape. The special features on the disc are few, but effective. I was impressed by the deleted scenes. On most discs, the deleted scenes are just trimmings of crap that should have been left on the cutting room floor. Listening to Mena’s commentary during the scenes, you can really understand why he loved the scenes but why they had to be cut at the same time. He also goes on to explain why a particular scene being cut, led to other scenes having to be cut, for the sake of continuity. Scenes he personally felt to be fantastic, with great performances from the actors, were cut to keep from distracting from the main story. There’s a couple of featurettes on the disc, behind-the-scenes type stuff, but nothing really worth mentioning. Throw in the Theatrical trailer, a TV-spot, and the director’s commentary, and that does it for the special features provided on the disc. It’s not overwhelmingly great, but the deleted scenes were interesting enough to make up for the lack of any deeper special features.
Bereavement is released to DVD and Blu-Ray on August 30th, by Anchor Bay Entertainment. The MSRP for the Blu-Ray is currently listed as $24.99 on Amazon, but judging by the pricing trend for Blu-ray lately, it’s likely to be 15 dollars or under when we get a little bit closer to the date of release. I can’t honestly think of one negative thing to say about this film, so if you’re sitting on the fence, consider this my recommendation to take the plunge. If you hate it, you have my permission to curse my name.
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