Exclusive: Stevan Mena Talks Bereavement and More

The role of mentor is a time-honored one. An older, more experienced craftsman taking a younger, impressionable apprentice under his tutelage and guiding him along his path toward mastery of any given skill is a tradition that goes back to ancient times. The range of skills being taught can be wide and varied: blacksmithing, literature, business, the arts, philosophy, journeymen trades, martial arts… The list goes on and on.

From time to time, the unique skill set handed down is darker, more nefarious, than just a simple trade or artform. Sometimes… it can even be murder.

Writer/director Stevan Mena is no stranger to this concept. With his 2004 film Malevolence, he introduced a killer who’d been taught his skills by someone in his past, and audiences watched as he practiced his art against strangers unfortunate enough to wander into his hunting ground.

After a small diversion directing the horror comedy Brutal Massacre in 2007, Mena began work on the second part of his proposed trilogy which started with Malevolence. On March 4, 2011, Crimson Films and Aurilia Arts Productions present Stevan Mena’s latest excursion into madness entitled Bereavement, which stars Michael Biehn (Aliens), John Savage (The Deer Hunter), Alexandra Daddario (Percy Jackson), and Brett Rickaby (The Crazies).

Dread Central spoke at length with Mena and brought back his explanation about the film, its characters, and the proposed third act to his serial killer opus.

Dread Central: I wanted to start by getting a little background from you on where you grew up, did you go to film school, what sparked your interested in film… that sort of thing.

Stevan Mena: I’m a native of Long Island. I was born in Astoria, Queens, and I grew up in Nassau County, Long Island. I went to film school, but I dropped out in the first semester. I’m not a big fan of structured learning, so I couldn’t really function there. I ended up just going out and getting my hands dirty and learning by doing, going to sets and volunteering, going to rental houses and asking questions… that sort of thing. Just making movies myself. I did some apprenticeship with a director named Ralph Toporoff (AMERICAN BLUE NOTE). I worked with him in the Nineties and he absolutely taught me a tremendous amount. So, I took a lot of my learning curve off by working with him. But, again, it was mostly in the field and actually by trial and error by myself.

DC: Growing up, were you shooting small video films? I hear from a lot of directors that they were shooting small Super 8 films when they were young.

SM: I came in after the whole Super 8 thing. For me, it was during the Eighties that I was growing up, so I had a VHS camcorder. It was a really cheap one. It was one where we had to carry the VCR around with you and it was as big as some of the movie cameras of today. It was pretty pathetic, but it was what we had. In the beginning, when I was really young, it was me doing stuff in my backyard, but I just never grew out of it. All of my friends who I used to get to volunteer stopped wanting to volunteer and kind of grew out of it, but it just became a complete obsession with me and it still is to this day. I can think of nothing else. I drive people crazy with it.

DC: What was the film that did it for you – where you said, “Yeah, I want to do that!”

SM: I’ve been asked that question a lot and it always reminds me of a very, very specific moment. It was when I saw THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE in a re-release by New Line. I was twelve years old, I think, at the time. It was in a double feature with SLEEPAWAY CAMP if I remember correctly. SLEEPAWAY CAMP was the first film and, after it was over, I said to my friend, “Do you want to stay for this other movie, TEXAS CHAIN SAW?” which I’d never heard of. We were like, “Yeah, why not?” Ninety minutes later, I was completely blown away. That’s the only way to describe it. I was completely blown away as a twelve-year-old seeing that film. I was absolutely terrified and I wanted to know everything about it. I started doing research on it and, back then there was no Internet, so I did it the hard way. I found out how it was shot on a shoestring budget and how it was made outside of Hollywood and I kind of became obsessed with how that film was made. I realized then that it could be done. You can make a film outside of Hollywood. Being that I certainly don’t come from a background of means and being from the East Coast, I always knew it would be a little more difficult for me to break in. It was exciting to see that somebody outside of Hollywood made such a huge impact on my life and that was definitely the film that did it for me.

DC: Was it after that internship that you made Malevolence?

SM: That’s right. During the Nineties, I had stopped making movies. I’d gotten some advice that the best way to break in was to write, not to wait for somebody to tap you to direct, but to actually write something and, if possible, to go make it yourself. So, that was exactly what I did. I spent the Nineties learning how to write scripts. But around 1998, I had the idea for MALEVOLENCE and it kind of mushroomed into this five-hundred-page colossus of a book that I ended up cutting into three scripts. I took part of that story and made MALEVOLENCE. It was around 2000 that we first started shooting. Being that we had no money to do it and we were shooting on weekends and borrowing and stealing and whatever, it took us about two years to realize the finished product. So, it wasn’t until about 2002 that we were showing it to distributors and it didn’t make the theaters until 2004. A lot of independent filmmakers have gone through a lengthy process on their first film and we were no different. It finally did make it into theaters in ’04. Right around ’98 is when I interned with Ralph Toporoff and again, my learning curve went from six years to one. He really helped me to get over a lot of my fears of going out and actually doing it.

DC: I’m curious… you said you had this five-hundred-page opus and you took a piece of it to make Malevolence, so is Bereavement also a piece of that?

SM: That’s right. BEREAVEMENT is the first part of the story. BEREAVEMENT is a much more character-driven piece and I always knew that the first part of the story needed a much bigger budget and a much more disciplined approach than what I was able to do on a shoestring with MALEVOLENCE. The middle part of the story was always this bank robbery, on the run, run-n-gun kind of story that was more action-driven than character- and performance-driven. I knew I would be able to pull that off with a very low budget. I knew I could never do that with the BEREAVEMENT story, so that was why I did MALEVOLENCE first.

The other reason is I think the character of Martin, who was the killer in MALEVOLENCE, his back-story evolves in the BEREAVEMENT picture and I knew he would be a lot more scary in MALEVOLENCE if you knew nothing about his history than if you knew everything. I know there’s been a lot of talk about other films that reveal too much back-story about the killer and it kind of ruins it. Certainly, I felt that way with MALEVOLENCE that if I did BEREAVEMENT first, then you know everything about him and he’s not as frightening as if you knew nothing. But now, for people who have seen MALEVOLENCE, they think it’s interesting to now go back and see how that all transpired because it is quite a unique story and now there’s something else. Certainly, the person who brought him into this world – into this life – which would be Graham Sutter, his story is also intriguing and now, much more frightening knowing where the movie ends up.

DC: I think it also adds a certain amount of pathos and understanding to the character in Malevolence who you think is only the faceless killer, but now we find out that he’s also a bit of a victim by being molded into this remorseless thing.

SM: Absolutely. The movie definitely touches on the cycle of violence and the reciprocity of that. I think people, when they saw MALEVOLENCE, felt like there was something missing – there were pieces missing – because there was a lot of stuff that was introduced that was not developed because there’s only so much you can tell in one movie. I think that will be rewarded when they see BEREAVEMENT because a lot of those questions that were posited are now answered in a big way. Certainly, Martin is a victim, but then… I don’t want to give away too much about the film, but pretty much everyone is a victim in BEREAVEMENT when you really break it down. That was kind of the message I wanted to get across… and that was that there really aren’t any winners or losers when it comes to violence and murder. Everybody is a loser.

DC: I guess it begs the question – going back to your five-hundred-page document – if Malevolence is the center and Bereavement is the beginning, will there be a third installment to the story?

SM: Well, there’s been a third part for twelve years now. It’s been written and ready to go. Obviously, if BEREAVEMENT is received well and people want to see the end of the story, then I would definitely do it.

DC: But you have that locked and loaded…

SM: Oh, yeah… I could pull the trigger tomorrow and make that movie.

DC: One thing I noticed in Malevolence was that there is violence in the film, but you keep a lot of it off screen. I mean, for example, you see the raised knife, but you don’t see it impact. You hear it impact, but you don’t quite see it. Was that due to ratings considerations or a budgetary thing?

SM: It’s a combination of a lot of things. It definitely was a budgetary thought in the beginning, but my style is that I like to leave something to the imagination because I do think that’s effective. I know that’s old school and a lot of people don’t really adhere to that anymore. I kind of came full circle because when we shot BEREAVEMENT it turned out to be an extraordinarily gory and violent film. We felt that we went way too far with it and we had to tone it down a little bit to get it into mainstream theaters. We’re still concerned because it is still an extremely violent movie. But it’s a fine line that you walk. There’s a way you can over do it, I think, where it gets so gratuitous that it becomes cartoonish. For me, a scream in another room is always more terrifying than seeing the person scream on camera. I always find it just so much more frightening if I don’t know everything that is going on. If I’m left in the dark a little bit and I don’t know all of the facts, I’m always more scared than if I know what that scary noise was. I think that applies to gore, too. Once you see somebody pulling somebody’s intestines out and wrapping it around their head, you get to the point where, “Well, is that scary? Is that gory? Am I satisfied with that?” It would have been much more frightening to hear the knife go in, see the reaction on the victim’s face, than the reaction on the killer’s face… maybe see a little blood… but know what’s going on and experience the visceral reaction on your part watching those people die. I think that’s ten times more effective and it stays with you a lot more. Even the sound that the victim makes can stay with you and haunt you more than actually seeing their intestines flying out.

Exclusive: Stevan Mena Talks Bereavement and More

DC: It goes back to what Stephen King was talking about in Danse Macabre when he talked about how the thing you don’t see – or that you have to imagine – is more frightening than anything you do see because once you see it, you can get your head around it.

SM: I’ll meet that and match it and raise him one on that because I think a lot of it is also audible. I’m a big believer that it is what you hear as well. I pushed the actors in BEREAVEMENT really hard on those violent scenes because I think their performance – even just the tone of how they scream when being a victim and when being murdered – is extremely important. That’s the kind of stuff that really gets under MY skin. Even something they might say before they die is really the stuff that sticks with you.

DC: Can we talk about Brutal Massacre for a moment? It was such a change from Malevolence in tone and it skewers both the worlds of low budget filmmaking and horror fandom pretty effectively. I’m wondering how much of that was born out of you having been through that circuit with Malevolence and seeing how low budget films were made and turning that on its head?

SM: It’s funny… You kind of answered the question. It’s exactly what you said. I kept a journal of my experiences of MALEVOLENCE from actually making the movie, casting the movie, trying to distribute the movie, and the people that I met on “the horror circuit.” BRUTAL MASSACRE really was just my reflections on the last couple of years of making a horror movie. What I did was I had fun with it and turned it into something a little different in that the Henry Penderecki character is not necessarily someone I know, but it’s kind of like a combination of personalities that I encountered and thought were hysterical. You have to take everything with a little grain of salt and a little tongue in cheek. There are some people in this business that take the horror movies that they’re making EXTREMELY seriously… to the point of it becoming comical. That’s kind of where Henry Penderecki was born, out of that bizarre world that you can sometimes enter in this genre and the people that you meet. His body of work obviously was something I came up with, but the things that happened to him, the things that malign his ability to get the film finished, all of the obstacles he faces, and all of the really, really strange episodes that occur along the way… that was all pretty much real things that happened. There’s very little in that movie that isn’t based on fact, sad to say.

DC: Having been involved in the genre for a long time now, it’s interesting for me to watch Brutal Massacre because, as you meet Penderecki, you can kind of pick out the traits of real people that anyone who’s spent any time doing conventions has seen or dealt with and I think you hit it all squarely on the head. And, populating the film as you did with a lot of familiar and friendly genre faces really drove the point home even more.

SM: Thanks, I appreciate that.

DC: What was the production schedule on Bereavement and, if you don’t mind talking about it, what was the budget?

SM: The film’s budget was under $2 million. The production schedule… It was a pretty lengthy shoot. We did some reshooting, but if you combine everything, it was about a two-month shoot.

DC: Did you shoot it on film or HD?

SM: Yeah, we shot on Super 35.

DC: Since Bereavement is a prequel to Malevolence, do people need to rent Malevolence in order to understand Bereavement?

SM: It’s important to note that seeing MALEVOLENCE is not a prerequisite to watch BEREAVEMENT. BEREAVEMENT absolutely stands on its own. There is a very tight connection between the films, but the way the films connect is more of a reward for the people who have seen the first film rather than “Oh, I have to see this first and then go see BEREAVEMENT to understand it.” Both of these films are extremely different and they totally exist in their own world. There are directors out there where you can watch one film and then watch two films or three films they’ve made and you know right away who directed this movie. Whereas, I think you could watch BEREAVEMENT and then watch MALEVOLENCE and have no idea that the same person did both because it really is a representation of my growth as a director, but also I just wanted it to be a very, very different experience that what was created with MALEVOLENCE. So, they’re very, very different films and you definitely don’t need to see MALEVOLENCE to appreciate or enjoy BEREAVEMENT.

DC: In writing the initial story, did you do a lot of research into the kinds of relationships (the mentor killer kind of thing like the DC Sniper, John Allen Muhammad/Lee Boyd Malvo, for example) that are addressed in the film?

SM: I actually did some research into psychology and human interaction with regards to child abuse. From my college days, I do have a pretty thorough understanding of how those interactions work and how those situations arise and how they end up. When I was exploring these characters, I tried to put it in a real world setting. I think when you watch BEREAVEMENT, what’s frightening about the film is… most people come away from it saying, “You know what? That kind of stuff can really happen and does.” It’s no different than that girl who was found who’d been kept captive for eighteen years. This kind of stuff happens all the time. The level of psychosis that you see with the Graham Sutter character… When you watch the film, you’ll see that he has a lot of contradictions which was something I noticed in my research. People are not one-sided. They’re multi-dimensional. What I’ve noticed from other horror antagonists is that they’re usually one-sided and one-dimensional in what they want. They just want you dead. Whereas, with the Graham Sutter character, he has so many different contradictions… He’s nice one minute. He’s scary in another minute. He’s contemplative in another. That’s what crazy is! Crazy really doesn’t understand what the fuck is going on. It’s just trying to understand its surroundings and its world, but through a completely distorted perspective. They don’t realize they’re crazy, but you as the viewer watching them will say, “Shit! This guy is fucking nuts!” But he doesn’t get it. And that’s the fun of it, you know? Where my research dove-tailed into here’s a guy we can look at through the prism of “Ok, we’re sane people and we understand what’s right and what’s wrong. This guy clearly thinks he understands, but definitely doesn’t.” I think a lot of abusive situations, especially with younger children, a lot of these people who perpetrate this kind of violence think they’re in the right. They think they have the right to do this. But, we as sane people, realize, “You’re a fucking lunatic!”

DC: There has to be an internal logic within the character. No one sits and says, “Yup, I’m crazy!” There’s this internal logic in which people will think they’re doing right. Let’s be topical and use this guy in Arizona… He obviously had his own sense of “this is why I did this thing” and they make perfect sense to him, but as everyone else views it, it seems incomprehensible and, well… insane.

SM: It’s a perfect example.

DC: So, if you were asked to synopsize Bereavement, how would you?

SM: It’s a complex story, so it’s a little difficult to synopsize. Truly, it is, but it’s really about one child’s journey through madness and what happens to him on the other side.

If you look at the Graham Sutter character, he’s a recluse who has externalized these demons and thinks that they are real. So, it’s all about his struggle with his sanity and this redemption he’s seeking. Just to give you a little back-story… He was raised in a slaughterhouse and he was an animal lover, but his father runs a slaughterhouse, so he was indoctrinated into that business because he had no choice. So, try to imagine yourself loving animals, but you’re forced to slaughter them every day. You have no choice in that matter. What would it do to you on a psychological level, especially as a child? This insanity was born out of that conflict that he felt on a daily basis as a child and he tries to reconcile that as an adult, but he really is still a child. Kidnapping the Martin character is where this reciprocity of violence takes place where now he’s perpetuating the same thing that happened to him to this child. Not understanding or even trying to understand… maybe even try to observe him in order to understand. Another big part of the story is… a lot of these killers coexist with us without us even knowing. Kind of like Joel Rifkin… He lived in a suburban area and killed eighteen people in his basement while his mom was upstairs and nobody knew anything. Sutter is in a much more rural setting, but still… He’s doing all of this terrible stuff right under people’s noses.

So, in the movie, when Alexandra Daddario’s character moves in, she’s not as desensitized as everybody else who’s lived there all their lives. She notices that some things aren’t right and by being curious and by investigating these things, she disturbs that hornet’s nest and everything comes to the surface. Now, everybody knows and all hell breaks loose. So, again… it’s kind of tough to synopsize the film because there is so much going on. But in the end, it’s really about one young boy who is exposed to an extreme level of violence and his eventual reaction to everything he’s gone through and how does he deal with it? Does he shrug it off or does he become a killer? What happens to him?


DC: You mentioned Alexandra. I’m curious about your cast: Alexandra, Michael Biehn and John Savage. It’s the highest profile cast you’ve worked with. I’m wondering about how that process went and what you thought they would bring to the film?

SM: That’s a really interesting question because it requires some hindsight. I say that because when we cast the film, I didn’t want to bring in these “gong show” genre vets. I wanted somebody who I thought could bring a lot of class to the movie. So, I’m thinking to myself, “Who’s the coolest genre guy I know out there?” I’m thinking certainly Michael Biehn from ALIENS. I’ve never seen him in a movie that I didn’t like. For me, he’s definitely one of the kings of cool when it comes to genre vets. So, I said, “I want to get Michael Biehn because him in this role will allow me to pull some strings that I couldn’t otherwise pull. I mean, strings in regard to plot points in the movie that, by using him, I can kind of trick you and pull the rug out from under you because certain things happen that you don’t expect. He was a great casting choice. He and John Savage were our big stars. When we started, Alexandra, Nolan Funk, Spencer List… these were all guys who came in from a regular casting call and weren’t really anybody at the time.

In the time since we shot the movie, Alexandra Daddario is now, far and away, our biggest star. She’s this huge up-and-comer. She was just named by V Magazine’s Eight Faces To Watch in 2011. I won’t say we lucked out. I certainly credit Adrienne Stern, our Casting Agent for bringing them to the table, but there was certainly a lot of serendipity and luck because Alex turned out to be just an unbelievable talent. And we knew it. We knew it when we were on the set with her. The mumblings and grumblings by everybody was, “Holy shit! This girl is going to be huge.” She’s got a great work ethic. As one person put it, she’s freakishly beautiful. And she’s really, really talented. Like Jennifer Connelly talented. She’s got everything going for her. She’s smart. She’s beautiful. She’s talented. She’s going to be a huge star. So, to have her in our film… We knew we were lucky then, now we realize just how lucky we were after seeing her in PERCY JACKSON and now in HALL PASS coming out and she’s got a couple of other movies in the pipe. We were extremely happy with how that all turned out.

DC: I’d read someplace there were some… discussions… between you and Brett Rickaby about character and that sort of thing.

SM: Oh, yeah… yeah. Brett was a very late casting choice and, again, another one of those things where they heavens shone on us because his performance was one for the ages. For me, anyway. I couldn’t possibly be happier than I am with what he did with the role. He comes to the table with a very voracious appetite for wanting to know EVERYTHING. I warned him in the beginning. I said, “Listen, I’ve been living with this for like ten years, so… if you want to know everything, it is a LONG story and there is a lot to this character that no one will ever get even if they watch the film twenty times. Do you want to know all of that back-story? Do you want to know all of the things that make Graham Sutter tick?” And he said, “Yeah!” So, we would sit for HOURS and hours just talking about the character, talking about the back-story… all those intricacies that usually go over people’s heads. He was interested in that and he used all of it in developing this character and developing his performance. If you were to add up all of the time we spent just talking, it’d be something like three weeks.

DC: And you have a couple of really young actors, Payton and Spencer List. Do you find working with younger actors challenging… especially with material that is violent?

SM: Another really good question… I really don’t know how to describe it except that they were amazing. They never complained, never got tired. They always knew their lines. I mean, I can’t think of one time where I ever got frustrated with either of them. They were always spot on and just amazed me with their level of talent and persistence and consistency, especially with Spencer. Both of them are just amazing kids. I have to say that even Chase Pechacek, who plays the younger Martin in the movie and is six, was also involved in a scene that was horrifically violent. Of course, we went to great lengths to make sure that he didn’t see or hear any of that, more to the point. He wasn’t really frightened by what he saw, but when he heard the girl scream, he would curl up into a ball, terrified… which speaks to the point I was making before. We were very careful to protect him, but still… there were times where he felt uncomfortable and we had to acknowledge that and be very receptive to his needs. But the kids in my film were as good or better than all of the adults. I had no problems whatsoever. So, as far as that goes, I think it all depends on which kids you work with because I have nothing but superlatives to say about those kids.

DC: I also read that you scored Bereavement. Do you have an extensive musical background?

SM: Yeah, I’m a frustrated rock star. [laughs] I actually have an entire studio that I do recording in. Initially, I did not want to score BEREAVEMENT. I worked with several composers on this movie, but in the end, my own… I wouldn’t call it impatience, but… I’m very tough to please, so in regard to the other composers, it’s one hundred percent my fault not theirs. They all brought great stuff to the table. It just wasn’t what I was looking for. So, in the end, it was a creative decision on my part to score it again, but it wasn’t my first choice.

DC: It’s so hard sometimes to distill your idea down to someone else, especially when you have the chops to do it yourself.

SM: Absolutely! You just hit the nail right on the head. What you just said is exactly it. I’m a musician, but I didn’t have the knowledge of music theory to distill exactly what I wanted to these guys. And there’s no way that they can read my mind, so therein lies the frustration.

DC: Because music in the film is so important. I mean, witness people like John Carpenter whose music sometimes sets the whole mood of the film. I think that would be frustrating especially – and again not through any fault of their own – when they’re not “getting it.” I would think it would be like, “Ok, move over and let me in there.”

SM: It’s really more along the lines of everything they gave me was good, it’s just that they’re trying to find a needle in the haystack of my brain. I’m looking for something very specific and, when I don’t get it, I do get frustrated. And that’s it exactly, “Let me try this myself. I’m going to have to do this myself.” I’m a huge fan of music in movies. I’m a huge fan of Goblin. I feel like if I’m going to credit anybody… I learned everything I know about scoring movies from Goblin. They’re a huge influence. I mean, I’m one of those guys who drives around with the theme music from DAWN OF THE DEAD playing in my car. I’m crazy like that. Music is such a huge piece of it, especially with horror. The music tells you everything you need to know about how you’re supposed to feel at that moment.

DC: In my opinion, there are two really important parts of a horror film (other than script) and they are sound design which you seem to have hit on and music which you also have covered.

SM: Absolutely! I’m such a proponent of it that, as we’re going through the theatrical release, one of my harshest stances that I put on the requirements is I want to make sure every theater the film is playing in has an excellent 5.1 sound system because such great pain went into the scoring and the sound mix of this film to make it as good as it can be as a horror film. To experience it the right way, you can’t see it in a theater that’s got two speakers in the front. You have to get the entire experience.

DC: I always hold up the Alejandro Amenabar film The Others when I get to talking about sound design. There’s an example of sound design that totally makes that film.

SM: Brilliant. And also, Alejandro Amenabar did the score on that film as well.

DC: Right! You told Fangoria that the MPAA banned the poster you initially made for Bereavement. You said that it was “hugely disappointing because that poster really encapsulated the plot of the film.” How frustrating was that? I mean, it’s a great poster.

SM: [sighs] It was like a kick to the balls.

DC: You can already hear the frustration in your voice. [laughs]

SM: Especially because… when that poster was created, which is like a year earlier, it was one of those moments where I had the idea for the poster and I went to my artist, this guy named Carl Timpone who is also from Long Island and is fucking brilliant if anyone ever needs a great artist, and I said, “Here’s what I want. Can you try and do something with it?” And I went back three days later and he had gone out and done a photo shoot and came back with this image that just blew me away. I was like, “That’s it! That’s the image for this movie. Done!” So many times in my experience and in my journey making movies, I never, ever get what I want. [laughs] This was like the one freakin’ time when I sent somebody to do something and I got exactly what I wanted. The first time out, this guy hits a home run. We loved it. I loved it. So, when the MPAA banned it, it was just like, “Of course!” [laughs] “Of course, because I frickin’ love it. Of course they’d ban it.” So, yeah… I was totally beside myself. Then, Michael Gingold [from FANGORIA] called me for something unrelated and he was like, “What’s the matter?” and I told him and that’s how he ended up breaking the story. In the end, the MPAA did compromise with us. We ended up moving the knife to Sutter’s hand which tells a completely different story which, to me, is ten times fucking worse. It looks like he’s taking the kid into the woods to kill him. The kid was in control of the knife before. I totally don’t understand it.

DC: You would think that because… it seems like the old joke about the man leading a kid into the woods and the kid says, “Wow, this is scary” and the guy says, “Scary for you? I have to walk back alone.” [laughs]

SM: Right! [laughs] Yeah, exactly! I just don’t understand the logic behind it. It was explained to me, but I still don’t understand it. Everyone always brings this up, but… I look at a poster for like KICK-ASS which I hadn’t really contemplated, but then someone showed it to me and I thought, “Shit! Well, there you go.” I understand… it’s a thankless job. They have people they have to answer to as well. Fine. They did compromise with us. It’s not the poster I wanted by a long shot, but I can only hope that they’re as generous with us with the rating. Of course, I’m terrified about that, too because that’s something that, as we’ve seen in the recent past, can completely nuke a film. So, we’re hoping for the best.

DC: It’s like the old Clive Barker story with Hellraiser. Supposedly, the MPAA told him that two hip thrusts in a sex scene was ok, but three was obscene.

SM: I don’t know how you apply those mathematics to art and I don’t envy them their job. I just don’t know how you do it. I don’t understand any of it.

DC: Based on that, with the film coming out on March 4, 2011, once it makes its theatrical run, you’re talking about the obligatory DVD and Blu-Ray release. Have you guys talked about what you’re going to do with whatever the MPAA doesn’t allow, what gets cut? Is there talk of an unrated cut of the film being made available? Will there be any Special Features?

SM: Well, I will tell you this… This movie was based on a book that I wrote, so there’s always going to be a tremendous amount of material that doesn’t make the movie. In this case, I am very, very happy with how the movie turned out and the final product, but there is a tremendous amount that didn’t make the movie and not necessarily because it shouldn’t have, but there’s a time constraint for everything. I think the DVD for BEREAVEMENT is going to be very, very interesting because there are entire subplots that were deleted that people may be able to experience on DVD. Will it change the movie for them? I don’t think so. The stuff that was taken out is stuff that takes what they already know a little bit further. So, they’re not really missing anything. It’s like if you wanted to know more about the story, more about the characters than you already do, then the opportunity is there to do that.

DC: I’d read that in post-production your original cut of the film was something like three hours.

SM: Not exactly three hours, but it was in the two-and-a-half-hour range, yes.

DC: Then this other stuff that you’re talking about was some of the stuff that got trimmed.

SM: Yeah… I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s significant stuff with John Savage that didn’t make the movie. I don’t think it changes the movie dramatically. I just think that there was a lot about him and his back-story that did not make the movie. There’s also a lot of stuff about Sutter, but it’s not stuff that changes the movie in any way. It’s just more information, that’s all.

DC: Once the film’s out and put to bed, is the plan for you to go on to the third part of the story, or are you going to take a break or do something else?

SM: The short answer to that is that I have certainly been asked to do the third one in a very immediate sense, but I do have other stuff that I’m planning too, so I don’t know if that’s going to be my next film. I know a lot of people want that to be my next film, but I’ve not made that final decision yet.

Our thanks to Stevan for taking the time to speak with us. For more visit the official Bereavement website.

Exclusive: Stevan Mena Talks Bereavement and More

Thom Carnell

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