Stream to Scream: “BEREAVEMENT”
As many fright fans already know, FANGORIA offers a great selection of gruesome movies, old and new, for free at our Hulu channel. To give you a better idea of what’s in store, FANGORIA will be taking in-depth looks at some of the channel’s terrifying titles with this newest feature, Stream to Scream. First up: Stevan Mena’s demented BEREAVEMENT.
A recurring problem among select horror filmmakers today is the interpretation of absolute nihilism as pure evil and terror. While a bleak outlook may lead a filmmaker to dark, upsetting places, this mindset is only as substantial as the content on display. The necessity for a unique, engaging story that’s subsequently dismantled by unapologetic depression helps create horrific moments that resonate; otherwise, one cares not of the hell the characters will endure.
Obviously, one cannot ignore that there are horror fans that simply support brutality in all of its forms, even at the cost of story and execution. For those fans, horror lies within the visceral, which often begets nastier special FX and imaginative kill sequences. While such a mindset is as valuable as that of those who favor bloodless, minimalistic dread, there’s only so much a director can salvage from a film with an underwritten narrative.
Stevan Mena’s BEREAVEMENT is meant to shock and inspire dread, presenting a tale of mental illness and the evil drawn from irresistible compulsion. The story of a child abducted and forced to witness the crimes of a killer relies too heavily on demented sadism however, racking up a meaningless body count along the way. It’s a dark film that’s meant to be provocative, but that doesn’t translate to a challenging film if not presented with an engaging motive for the carnage. The antagonists may be noticeably crazy, worshiping at makeshift shrines and listening to voices in their heads, but they’re not compelling.
Director Mena shows proficient technical skill, building a believably eerie world in the mixture of giallo-esque colors and backwoods horror art direction. It’s the script here that leaves much to be desired, slaving to the tropes of prequels and offering little to its strong cast. As BEREAVEMENT’s driving force, Mena attempts to juggle a downtrodden story with chilling set pieces, yet is unable to find a tonal balance, leaving the audience with scattered moments of barbarity in atypical serial killer scenarios. With striking cinematography from Marco Cappetta, BEREAVEMENT has opportunities to become visually enthralling, but unfortunately it never drifts far from cynical self-importance.
Most of the aforementioned cast handle their roles well, even if the characters aren’t as multidimensional as one may expect. Alexandra Daddario is given the uncomplimentary role of the tanktop-laden troubled teen, rarely getting a second to brood before being engulfed in madness. Brett Rickaby adds more than manic psychosis to the lead antagonist, but inconsistencies in his character development robs the role of becoming truly memorable. Of course, character acting veterans Michael Biehn and Kathryn Meisle are given the most complex roles as the conflicted godparents of the protagonist, but unfortunately their scenes are far too brief to be fulfilling.
Once again, this is not to say BEREAVEMENT doesn’t have its audience. Gorehounds and hardcore serial killer film fanatics will find more to love here, but the movie feels too incomplete and degenerative to transcend the boundaries of horror and truly become edgy entertainment. With murky inspiration, the narrative of BEREAVEMENT is like a half-measure of the exploitation subgenre. Paired with its sequel MALEVOLENCE, perhaps the story would feel more complete, but without enough originality in Mena’s visceral vision, BEREAVEMENT’s intent to disturb is conceptually dead on arrival.