ASHES TO ASHES, SPOILERS TO SPOILERS
This is an astonishingly grim movie. I mean, obviously a fearless and unflinching examination of the development of a serial killer under the guidance of his babbling mentor, from his initial abduction at the age of six through the years patiently learning the techniques of gutting women in an abandoned abattoir, isn't going to be big on hilarity anyway but even so it's pretty gruelling going. It's actually the prequel to the grungy Malevolence, which was also light on the laughs but had a seedy drive-in movie feel to it; this just has unbearable nihilism in which pretty much everyone dies pointlessly and needlessly. And it's made more uncomfortable by the use of a child in some of the grisly and bloody slaughter.
Malevolence had the maniac already in place and told of a bunch of robbers and their hostages who turned up there by chance and were offed by a mad killer; Bereavement tells how he got that way. As a child, Martin feels no pain and is thus in danger of hurting himself and bleeding to death unawares. But local loonie Graham Sutter snatches the kid and over the years trains him as his assistant as he picks up local girls and butchers them in the old slaughterhouse. Meanwhile, following the deaths of her parents in Chicago, Allison (Alexandre Daddario) has come to stay with her uncle (Michael Biehn) and his family - how long before Sutter chooses her as his next victim?
Though it was made two years earlier, it has something of the feel of Jennifer Lynch's Chained about it, but it lacks the disturbing depth of that film: whereas Vincent D'Onofrio's killer was a fully depicted character (even allowing for the questionable plot twist), here we're given little insight into what makes the maniac tick except that he's entirely in thrall to the cattle skulls hung on the walls that tell him what to do. Bereavement goes instead for the disturbing shallows, with children as potential victims as well as a murderer in training, an unpleasant relish to the kills, and no-one spared in the corpse-strewn third act. Eventually it leaves you wondering just what the point of it was beyond setting up a film that had already been made. Technically it's well enough put together as a sleazy grindhouse item, but rather empty and with a somewhat nasty aftertaste to it.
Laughs there ain't none: