M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved starting with the year I began reviewing the genre officially October 1, 2010 through October 1, 2011. I have posted my best of lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around a bit. I’ve even added a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!
How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st 2010 and September 30, 2011 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number, 31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!
Released on August 30, 2011. Available On Demand, digital download, & BluRay/DVD!
#21 – BEREAVEMENT (2010)
Written and Directed by Stevan Mena
Starring Michael Biehn, Alexandra Daddario, John Savage, Nolan Gerard Funk, Spencer List, Brett Rickaby, Peyton List
Find out more about this film here and on the Facebook page!
There are those who poo-poo the slasher film as one of the lowest common denominators in horror. I’m not one of those people. I grew up watching FRIDAY THE 13TH’s and HALLOWEEN and loving every single frame. The problem with those films is that the early ones were made by masters of suspense, amping up the fright of being stalked by a lone, unstoppable madman who continues to advance on you no matter how much you fight back, but the latter ones were made by folks who weren’t as skilled or smart at making a film that gives chills and focused more on showing the killer in plain sight, gimmicks and nudity. It appears that writer/director Stevan Mena feels the same way. Mena, with BEREAVEMENT and its predecessor MALEVOLENCE, has breathed new life into the slasher film by doing two things; moving forward and moving back.
While MALEVOLENCE was an old school slasher yarn—channeling early Carpenter in many ways; placing his masked stalker in the background while the unknowing victims talk in the foreground a la Michael Meyers and focusing on the weapon being used rather than the killer itself. The POV shots followed the victim rather than the killer in order to influence the viewer to uncomfortably identify with them rather than the usual focus on the anti-hero common in late eighties/early nineties slashers. Even the music was a throwback to Carpenter’s synth score. Mena’s music (an unholy union of Manfredini’s iconic FRIDAY THE 13th orchestra and Carpenter’s keyboards) shattered out of nowhere signifying and often intensifying what is seen on screen.
Mena continues the 80’s slasher love fest going in BEREAVEMENT. Mena pushes the understanding of the slasher forward by giving a reason why these slashers just can’t be killed. Early in the film, the mother of the child who grows up to be the killer in MALEVOLENCE explains to a babysitter that her child is special. His brain doesn’t register pain, so he literally keeps on going even though he may be mortally wounded. In that tiny bit of exposition, ingeniously worked into the script in a functional manner, Mena explains why his killer (if not all of these cinema slashers) seemingly cannot be killed or hurt. This sophisticated way of storytelling elevates this slasher film above the rest by explaining something common in all of them.
The story is pretty simple. In MALEVOLENCE, Mena turns in a straight up, unapologetic slasher, intelligently crafted and a worthy successor of both F13 and HALLOWEEN films. But with BEREAVEMENT, Mena takes it to a whole new level. We go back in time witnessing the killer as a young boy, who turns out to be the right boy for Sutter, the slaughterhouse owner and serial killer himself, to kidnap. Although he doesn’t know it, Martin cannot feel pain, a trait very useful in the killing trade. Sutter trains Martin to be the perfect killer in some extremely graphic and disturbing scenes.
Alexandria Daddario is amazing as a city girl forced to live with her overprotective uncle, (played by Michael Biehn, who gives a strong performance here). The stuff Mena puts Daddario through in this one shows that this actress not afraid to get down and dirty. A fantastic career lay ahead for Daddario and it starts with this film in this gutsy performance.
In the end, BEREAVEMENT is stronger knowing what Martin will become. It’s sort of what STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE should have been. I saw MALEVOLENCE and BEREAVEMENT out of sequence, but I don’t think that much matters, given that both are powerful films by themselves. Unfortunately, Mena’s third film KILLER really didn’t reach the artistic levels the first two films in this trilogy achieved after that film was riddled with problems behind the scenes. Still with his talented camera and the intelligent twists and turns, Mena has both honored and redefined the slasher subgenre with these two gripping films.
THE 2010-2011 COUNTDOWN!
M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.
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