★ / ★★★★
Martin was little boy with congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA). While his mother was explaining to a potential babysitter about the boy’s condition, Martin was, in the blink of an eye, kidnapped by a passing serial killer, Ted (John Savage), whose goal was to train the innocent kid on how to gut women like animals. Five years later, Allison (Alexandra Daddario) moved in with her Uncle Jonathan (Michael Biehn) after her parents died in a car crash. While on her routine run, she noticed a boy watching her from an abandoned meat-packing factory. Written and directed by Stevan Mena, “Bereavement,” a prequel to “Malevolence,” had a relatively interesting premise but it failed to take off because it neglected to draw characters we could root for nor was it particularly entertaining due to a lack of creative horror chase scenes. Let’s start with its title. Allison had a reason to grieve. Her obsession with running was obviously a way of coping; the physical act of running took her out of her muddled thoughts and it helped her put things into perspective. Her uncle and his family cared for her but she found it difficult to care for them on the same level. She probably thought loving a new family was an act of betrayal to her biological family. Furthermore, it was also a symbol of her running away from grieving over her parents’ death. She rarely communicated with anybody so she came off as moody, almost unlikable. When she did make a connection with the boy next door, William (Nolan Gerard Funk), the writer-director made a decision to interrupt their blossoming connection and inserted a scene of Ted kidnapping or murdering another woman. By doing so, we failed to learn more about Allison. It was critical that we got to know her because she was, inevitably, going to be the final girl standing. We needed reasons, aside from the fact that she was prey, to want to see her survive. It was a shame because when Allison and William finally went on a proper date, that was when I realized that the two actors had chemistry. It was the first time the movie changed tones and the emotions came alive. A horror film should not be afraid to let its characters laugh and have fun. Moreover, the picture’s lack of heart-pounding chase sequences was gravely disappointing. The story took place in a rural area where farmlands could be seen for miles. There were some creepy instances when Allison was stalked by Ted while in his truck. It was repetitive but at least it attempted to generate some minute level of tension. But Allison was captured rather quickly and she was stuck in one place. She was given nothing to do but scream and it got annoying. The first half of the movie tried to convince us that she was a strong woman, but the second half failed to prove that to us. Instead of allowing her to sleep off her increasingly grim situation, I wanted to see her actually play the hand she’d been given. Yes, she was stuck in a big freezer but if the fire inside her was strong and desperate, then we would have had a reason to keep watching. “Bereavement” lacked focus and therefore power. If it had found a way to highlight the similarities between Martin and Allison, like their parents prematurely being taken from them, it wouldn’t have felt so brazen in recycling old formulas.