Moving on from the Craven madness, here are #16 and 17 of my 31 Days of Horror Films (which I may or may not have to extend into November): Bereavement and Chained.
I picked up a few new’ish horror released lately at my favorite video store: Chained, which is Jennifer Lynch’s latest, and Bereavement, which I didn’t know is a prequel to Malevolence (as yet unseen by me).
Both have a similar premise: a serial killer kidnaps a boy and tries to teach him how to be a serial killer; however, while Bereavement kicks some serious splatter ass, Chained has so many problems I don’t even know where to begin.
Vincent D’Onofrio plays serial killer Bob, a deranged psycho who targets women, picks then in a cab, and drags them back to his house in the middle of nowhere to stab them to death while he rapes them. One night Bob picks up a young son and his mom, and leaves the son in the car while he murders mom, bringing him inside afterwards and telling him he will now be his slave, and his new name is “Rabbit”.
Unfortunately, D’onofrio decided to adopt a weird accent for his role, which is akin to Barney Rubble on The Flintsones (probably to distance himself from his Criminal Intent role)—read: NOT scary. Also unfortunately, while there are a few scares, and the though of what Bob is doing to these women is kind at times terrifying, the killer himself comes across as more pathetic than menacing. Even the icky trauma that started Bob on his path to murdering seems…typical, somehow.
Plus, most of the murders take place off-screen, only showing us the bodies afterwards. There are a few instances of slashings done in front of Rabbit, but ultimately this means there is minimal splatter. A missed opportunity, Jennifer!
While the teenage Rabbit does an effective job of acting like a traumatized captive, when it comes time for his own first kill the outcome is pretty easy to determine. And from then on, even with a last-minute plot twist, the film offers no surprises. It just…ends, very anti-climatically. It’s a shame, because I really liked Lynch’s last murder/thriller Surveillance, so I know she knows how to do horror. She just failed here.
In contrast, Director Stephen Mena really turns up the gore and atmosphere in Bereavement, with a more effective serial killer, Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby. Man, this guy sure looks the part!), who milks the part with just the right balance of hysteria, control, and menace.
Sutter kidnaps Martin right out of his backyard at the beginning of the film, not knowing that the little boy has a rare diseases called congenital analgesia, which doesn’t allow him to feel pain. (A detail which becomes important later on in the film)
Sutter also lives in an abandoned family meat-processing plant, and OMFG the set directors for this film should win all kinds of awesome awards, because it everything looks fucking PERFECT. I can’t express to you how much I loved it, and how many times I wanted to freeze-frame the action just so I could look at all the amazing detail.
Graham holds Martin captive for 5 years and forces him to watch while he slices his victims into pieces (sometimes even making him hold their legs while he does the slicing), muttering about fear and purity while he’s doing the murdering—and praying/talking to/yelling at giant scarecrows with animal skulls and horns that he’s placed all over the house and property.
Newly arrived Allison happens to be jogging past the creeptastic plant while on a morning jog, and sees the little boy in the window one day, peaking her curiosity. There’s a minimal side plot with Allison settling into life with her Uncle Jonathan, his wife, and their daughter—getting in a bit of trouble with a local boy, etc. Typical teenage stuff. But for the most part, the plot is focused on Graham and Martin.
And boy, does that focus involve a LOT of blood and gore. And mysteriously gross things in jars. And tubs full of bloody remains. Etc.
It’s all effectively creepy, and basically everything you could possibly want in a horror film, including the awesome ending. The only problem that Bereavement really has is that it suffers a sort-of typical horror movie problem in that the characters all kind of deserve to die because they keep doing really, really, really stupid shit.
Like walking into an abandoned meat-processing plant and not running when you see blood all over the walls, or not looking behind you, at all, ever. Or not thinking that someone might have a gun. You know, “always running up the front stairs when they should be running out the front door” kind of stuff.
In the end the minor flaws don’t matter though, because the whole package is pretty awesome. So many great details, so much splatter and terror, and I love, love, LOVE that they don’t over explain why the killer is so insane.
Bereavement is brutal, and gory, and is definitely worth a watch. I was pleasantly surprised—and horrified.
So if you have to choose one movie about a serial killer trying to teach a kid to murder, choose Bereavement, for sure. Chained isn’t really worth your time (unless you’re a Jennifer Lynch completest).