Death and Cremation (2010) Is Not All Fun and Games
Everyone who has ever had to drive a clunker, a junker, or a plain ol’ piece-of-crap-car can appreciate Stanley’s (Brad Dourif) unhappiness in Death and Cremation. If cars could drive you to psychopathy, his station wagon would be the ideal vehicle. Stanley is, indeed, a psychopath, as well as owner and operator of “Stanley Crematorium.” He’s the kind of psycho who makes our job very hard for us since we, as the audience, are expected to hate psychopaths—or at least disapprove of them-- but when one is killing people we think shouldn’t be walking the streets anyway, it’s hard to see him as all bad.
Forced to get a job by his shrewish mother (Debbon Ayer), teenage goth and high school victim Jarod (Jeremy Sumpter) convinces Stanley to allow him to work for a week without pay and if Stanley is satisfied they could work something out. Judging by Stanley’s complexion, teeth, and lack of customers, it’s easy to understand why he can’t afford to pay the kid. It’s a mystery, though, why he would let the kid hang around when it seems pretty clear that the crematorium is not so much a viable business as a “hobby” for Stanley. However, it’s a match made in heaven (or maybe hell)—Jarod is continuously bullied and Stanley kills bullies.
When Jarod picks up on what Stanley is apparently doing, he decides to do a little problem-elimination himself. Being a neophyte, he makes numerous mistakes (including hiding the body in his bedroom closet) and calls Stanley to help him clean up his mess.
Although films about serial killers and their protégés aren’t anything new, Death and Cremation has more in common with larger-budgeted films in the genre than with cheap productions and b-movies. The acting is quite good—Brad Dourif does a fine, understated job of making the antisocial Stanley a sympathetic character (if only because the audience wishes he’d do a job on the parking lot bullies in their neighborhoods). Jeremy Sumpter does justice to his angst-ridden teen role, but it’s the interaction between these two characters that sets Death and Cremation apart from other productions.Continued on the next page