While watching Bereavement, I thought of a passage in Stephen King’s Danse Macabre in which the author likens the process of finding a good horror movie to the long, mostly thankless task of a gold prospector: Both sift through the seemingly endless rubble for that occasional nugget that pops up once a year if they’re lucky—and that bit of gold, of course, is usually barely released theatrically. Bereavement, sadly, is another bit of rock, as it’s another film that follows the exploits of—what else?—a religious wacko (Brett Rickaby, seemingly doing a Jeff Fahey impression) who mutters to himself while hooking and disemboweling well-endowed teenage girls that he’s imprisoned somewhere in the subterranean bowels of his—what else?—rundown slaughterhouse. Soon, a troubled teenage girl (Alexandra Daddario, who looks rather enticing in the obligatorily sullied white tank top) finds herself battling the killer over one of his prisoners: a small boy the madman is grooming as an heir in response to a freakish disease that renders the child impervious to physical pain.
The film is so laughably Freudian it could play as a parody of certain acclaimed horror film studies such as Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Horror Film. The film’s raisons d’être are clearly the prolonged, gory, and ineptly staged killings, which revel in the tired idea of the murder instrument as penis. The camera lingers over the killer’s “knife” as he jams it into one gorgeous yet disposable cutie after another, their fluids splattering all over his shoes and pants as he goes in and out. The film should be offensively crass and insensitive, but it’s ultimately too pathetic and crushingly boring to get too worked up over. A more fitting strategy to processing (and surviving) Bereavement would be that tried-but-true drinking game of Spot the Influence: a little Frailty here, a little Nightmare on Elm Street there, a pinch of May, a dash of Halloween, and, as usual, an incalculable amount of Texas Chainsaw Massacre (and its remake). The ideal, though, would be to avoid this nasty, ultimately pointless assembly of clichés altogether.