Stan begins to take another misfit, Jarod Leary, under his wing.
Death and Cremation is the story of Jarod Leary (Jeremy Sumpter), someone you would call an emo or goth teen, definitely an outsider and aloof to most of his contemporaries. Jarod dresses in all black clothing, from his tee shirts to his levis and black low cut chucks. He even paints his fingernails black with a sharpie pen. Jared has recently moved to the town of Crest Falls with his widowed mother, Martha (Debbon Ayre). Their reduced circumstances forces them to live in a trailer park, which Jarod hates. As an outsider, he is bullied at school by the jock crowd led by David Valentine (Blake Hood) who picks on him because he refuses to conform to their norm, like participating in PE class. Instead Jarod sits on the field reading a book instead of running laps and exercising like the other students. To further humiliate Jarod, Lindsey Weaver (Kate Maher), a member of the jock’s in crowd, pretends to like him, comes on to him, setting him up for an embarrassing scene in front of the student body. Another girl at school, Courtney Faye (Madison Eginton), thinks Jarod is okay, but their relationship never takes off. At home, Martha is starting to date and get serious with Rick Waters (Sam Ingraffa), a pompous attorney. Sensing Jarod’s dislike and mistrust of him, Rick wants Jarod to bond with him by spending the summer at his Alabama farm. Jarod’s life is turning into a time bomb, just waiting to explode.
Jarod smoking while seated on a car.
If all of this seems familiar, it is. This is the time honored plot of so many coming of age films about teenagers. But then Death and Cremation takes a bizarre turn. When Jarod’s mother catches him smoking pot in his room, she puts her foot down and insists that he start doing something useful in his life. Her solution is for Jarod to get an after school job. So Jarod is forced to look for a job. Not wanting any kind of conventional job, Jarod decides to look for work at the Stanley Crematorium, which is owned and operated by Stan (Brad Dourif). At first Stan has no use for Jarod, and tells him to get lost. But for some perverse reason, Jarod is attracted to the idea of working there, and even volunteers to work for free. Maybe because he senses that Stan has a dark side. In Stan’s case it is more than a dark side, he is a serial killer, who makes a point of kidnapping and killing people who cross him somehow, and using his crematorium facilities to remove any evidence of their dead bodies. You see this side of Stan in a parking lot, where an oblivious woman, talking nonstop on her cell phone, cuts him off from the parking place he was about to enter. The next thing you know, the woman is bound and gagged in the trunk of Stan’s car and taken out into the country, where he kills her. In another scene, the Weaver family (including daughter Lindsay) is meeting with Stan about having a cremation and service. Their arrogant attitude rubs Stan the wrong way, and he blows them off in an equally rude manner. Guess who ends up on the victim list later?
When Jarod first goes down into the cellar, he begins to learn the truth about Stan.
As the storyline progresses, Stan and Jarod form an uneasy bond. It’s hard to imagine Stan being any kind of a father figure, but that’s what begins to happen. Eventually Jarod figures out what is going on at the crematorium. When he is finally allowed to go down in the cellar, where Stan has the ashes of his victims stored, he somehow has passed a test of trust with Stan. And now Jarod has an ally for a few scores of his own that he would like to settle. But as more people in town start to go missing, the police become involved, led by Detective Matt Fairchild (Scott Elrod). When the Lindsay Weaver goes missing, her distraught parents remember their strange visit to the Stanley Crematorium. Now circumstances begin pointing at Stan. Will Jarod and Stan be able to get away with murder or will their house of ashes collapse?
Jarod and Stan inside the chapel area of the crematorium.
Death and Cremation had the potential to be more than the typical horror film it ended up being. On the plus side there were great acting performances by Brad Dourif and Jeremy Sumpter. The theme was one that resonates. After all their cause was ridding the world of jerks and annoying people. And like the typical horror film, you can immediately pick out who will become the victims in the first few scenes by their cruel or obnoxious behavior. Out of all the characters, Stan’s was the most developed, as we discover his abused childhood, and the things that were done to him physically and mentally to turn him into who he was in the film. Jarod’s character went too quickly from social outcast to avenger. Sure he had reason to be full of repressed violence, but he wasn’t portrayed as a sociopath. For an intelligent teenager to begin resorting to cruel murders without at least some second thoughts or guilt or even self-destructive behavior seems to be a stretch. Another element that didn’t ring true was how Stan was able to pull off his kidnappings without any resistance from the victims or other people observing what he was doing. Stan is a short, disfigured, fifty-nine year old guy with a creepy looking face. Yet no one noticed when he grabbed the annoying woman on her cell phone in broad daylight out of a public parking lot, tied her up, and stuffed her into his trunk. He got David Valentine inside his house watching a video in his second floor bedroom. Sure he had the element of surprise, but how did he get David out of there with no one noticing? Despite its flaws, the film is entertaining in its genre. Clearly this is a first feature film by co-writer and director Justin Steele. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with in the future.
Jarod uses a marking pen to paint his fingernails black.
Jeremy Sumpter wears black low cut chucks throughout the film in his role as Jarod. Jeremy regularly wears chucks in his films. Death and Cremation has very few close-up shots. The best scene is at the beginning of the film, where Jarod is sitting on the athletic field painting his fingernails black with a sharpie and reading a book.
Jarod is oblivious to others on campus and doesn’t participate in PE class.
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