** Contains Spoilers **
I’ll say one thing for Brad Dourif – he’s a grafter. I’ve done a little research and it turns out he’s either starred in or played a supporting role in almost 75% of all genre movies ever made. Of course, it’s difficult to be both prolific and to always make good films (as Sam Jackson can attest), so it’s usually with a hint of trepidation that I sit down to watch a Brad Dourif movie. This time I was pleasantly surprised.
The oddly-titled DEATH AND CREMATION is the story of Stan, owner/operator of a perpetually deserted crematorium and part time serial killer. It’s to Dourif’s credit that he makes the scarred, antisocial Stan almost likeable, despite his predilection for coldblooded murder. It helps that the people he kills (almost, if not actually) deserve it. He targets bullies and thugs, ingrates and bigots. He’s an outsider, a freak, lashing out at the jocks and prom queens who make the lives of people like him so miserable, convinced he’s doing society a service.
Like attracts like and Jarod, a seventeen year old outcast (you know he’s an outcast because he paints his fingernails and refuses to play sports at school, preferring to read and smoke), falls into Stan’s orbit. If you’ve seen Bryan Singer’s APT PUPIL (or read the Stephen King story on which it’s based), you’ll probably be able to guess what happens next. Stan has no children, Jarod no father. The traumatised Stan has a need to kill, the traumatised Jarod a need for revenge.
The story is simple and slight, and all the more chilling for it. There are no real surprises along the way, but it unfolds at a believable pace and manages to strike just the right emotional balance. At one moment we’re appalled by the pair’s actions, at the next they’ve regained our sympathies. DEATH AND CREMATION isn’t going to change your life, but it’s a well observed, nicely played tale of obsession, corruption and mutual damnation.