Back in 2003, director Steven Mena made an ultra low budget slasher effort called Malevolence, chronicling the brutal crimes of a kidnapped child named Martin Bristol, who grew up watching his abductor commit heinous murders in front of him, and as such became a monster himself. The torch of evil was passed, but we never got to see those early years and the inciting incident which led to such madness. Cue a prequel, entitled ‘Malevolence: Bereavment’, a detailed, suffocating and very, very disturbing account of Martin’s childhood initiation into the life of a serial killer, under the wing and at the hands of a madman named Graham Sutter (Brett Rickaby, a walking nightmare). He snatches 6 year old Martin (Spencer List) from a backyard swing, with designs on naming him as both protégé and acting as mentor, kidnapping locals in the area and subjecting them to unspeakable acts of violence and psychological experimentation, all in the name of some illusory philosophy that only makes sense in his diseased psyche. Meanwhile, a young girl (early work from Alexandra Daddario) moves into town to stay with her estranged uncle (Michael Biehn) and his family. While she tries to wade through a romantic coming of age story involving a local boy, events surrounding the killer’s actions get perilously close to everyone, and erupt into one of the most stressful, harrowing chain of events I’ve ever seen in a horror film. Biehn is Hollywood’s resident badass, but the genius in casting him here is that not even he is a match for Sutter’s tedious reign of terror, and it’s in such contrast that the film strikes despair right down to the bones. Sutter is barely human, with ninety percent of his dialogue spent on indecipherable rambling, making us feel all the more alienated by the fact that the only other human being around to soak up this toxic output is poor young Martin, on a clear path to mental destruction. These scenes are as lonesome and depressing as the acrid rural vista in which this all unfolds, and while we’re thankful for atmosphere and setting, we can’t wait to get out and breathe fresh air by barely the halfway mark, lest we choke on such overpowering despair. Keep an eye out for genre legend John Savage in a crotchety cameo, providing the film’s single iota of comic relief. As much of a vicious little sleeper as the first film is, nothing quite compares to the sheer bleakness and soul dampening evil they achieved this time around. Don’t go onto this one in a bad mood, it’ll mess you up.