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June 2, 2012

Movie Review: Death and Cremation (2010)

Directed by Justin Steele

Starring Brad Dourif, Jeremy Sumpter and Scott Elrod

Death and Cremation is an odd but interesting movie about murder, sweet revenge against the bullies and douchebags of modern society, and the unusual friendship that develops between a high school outcast and a serial-killer mortician.

The story revolves around Jarod (Jeremy Sumpter), a kid who is picked on relentlessly at school. A pot-smoking slacker, his mother is fed up with him laying around the house and tells him its time to get a job. Not interested in getting a regular job, he runs across the local crematorium run by Stanley (Brad Dourif), a quite, strange little man who has absolutely no tolerance for bullies or assholes. And in fact relishes in the opportunity to run them over in his station wagon or smash their skulls in with a sledgehammer. Stan makes it clear that he is not interested in hiring a helper but when Jarod offers to work for free the first week, Stanley relents and decides to give the kid a chance. A friendship soon develops between these two kindred outcast spirits and it doesnt take long before Jarod starts to figure out that Stanley may be behind the disappearance of a local teenage girl. After being severely beaten by the missing girls boyfriend, Jarod shows up at Stanleys soon after, and they trade opinions on how bullies should be dealt with. Once Stanley realizes that Jarod shares his views on the subject, he asks him the name of the kid who beat him up. The following day, Stanley evens the score by kidnapping, killing and then of coarse cremating the bully, with the help of his eager new apprentice.


Soon after, Jarod crosses the line himself and kills his mothers creepy boyfriend with a bowling ball. In a panic, he tries to call Stanley for help but is forced to take the body home and stash it in his bedroom. Stanley finally arrives but mother soon enters the scene, followed by the detective who has been investigating the disappearances. Things unfortunately unravel for the two and more blood is spilled.

Death and Cremation isnt a great movie but it is good enough that I would recommend checking it out. Brad Dourif in the role of the creepy Stanley is as solid as he has been in 25 years worth of great supporting roles. Beginning his career as Billy Bibbit in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest, he has played such characters as the voice of Chucky in the Child's Play franchise, as well as Grima Wormtongue in The Lord of the Rings movies. Along with literally dozens of other well known films and television shows. His performance on its own is worth renting this movie. Jeremy Sumpter's performance as Jarod isnt too shabby either, he pulls off the brooding misunderstood teenager well enough. The rest of the characters, including mom, her boyfriend, the various high school bullies and the detective are all pretty cliché and one dimensional. But this is an instance where that actually helps the story play out the way the director intends it to, I think. His goal is for the audience to identify with the vengeful outcasts, so there is no real reason to get a back story on the other characters, they're basically just meat to feed the beast.

The death scenes, although violent, for the most part arent particularly gory, with the exception of the sledgehammer scene I'd say. Its all pretty well done though, with a pleasing soundtrack heavy on smooth and haunting acoustic guitar work. The only thing that was a bit of a let-down was the finish, although not bad it just lacked a real punch. The whole movie is rather understated and subdued with flashes of violent rage intermixed, but still engaging and very watchable.

Were it not for the weak finish I would have given it a 7 which is my base-line for being a good, solid movie. Falling just short of that I give it a 6.8 out of 10.

I recommend checking it out though, you just might like it.

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