Reviewed By Dead Kev
Well, well, well. Maybe slasher flicks aren't quite as dead
as I thought they were. Or more specifically, 'good' slasher
flicks. While big studios are busy remaking every old horror
movie, checking them off as they go down the list, first-time
director Stevan Mena poured himself into the neglected subgenre
with his independent film, Malevolence. The hard
work paid off, and Mena's seen his film make a successful
limited theatrical run and had DVD heavy hitter Anchor Bay
scoop up the rights to distribute it.
Has there ever been a movie where a bank heist goes well?
You'd think by now that someone would get it right for a
change. In Malevolence, apparent seasoned law-breakers
Max (Keith Chambers) and Kurt (Richard Glover) team up with
Max's sister Marylin (Heather Magee) and her boyfriend Julian
(Brandon Johnson) for a high-stakes robbery. The four of
them do a better job than most Hollywood capers, but to
balance out their (relatively) good work at the bank, they
picked a very poor spot for their arranged meeting place.
Like in real estate, hideouts are all about location, location,
location. The abandoned house in the woods they chose makes
for a poor one since it's a hop, skip, and a jump from a
really irritable neighbor...with a big knife.
Things fall apart first for Kurt. If ever there was a good
time for your tire to blow, after a bank robbery is not
it. Kurt's forced to take a mother (Samantha Dark) and her
daughter (Courtney Bertolone) hostage to get another ride.
Once the thieves start to arrive at their hideout in the
middle of nowhere, things really start to turn messy. Maybe
next time they can just meet up at Denny's or something.
These days it's darn near impossible to put a new spin on
the slasher flick and make it interesting for an audience.
For Malevolence, the unique spin wasn't really in
the story, but in the work behind the cameras. There's really
nothing that novel about someone with a sack over their
head killing people without remorse. There's a ray of originality
in the beginning and the ending of the movie, where the
killer's motives are explained, but everything in the middle
is very generic. What impresses is that the middle is still
the best part, and because it's so well done it doesn't
matter that we've seen all of it before.
It's hard for me to believe that this is Mena's first feature
film, but it is. The low budget isn't even noticeable. The
first key was to film in 35mm, which automatically gives
it a leg up on many indie movies these days. Mena then surrounded
himself with a very good crew and a solid cast. I think
it's safe to say that the director of photography, Tsuyoshi
Kimoto, has a great career ahead of him. The movie 'looks'
great all the way through and lighting is never a problem,
as it seems to be in a lot of low-budget stuff. Production
values look very high, mainly due to the great locations
they found to shoot at. The slaughterhouse is an actual
slaughterhouse that was shut down many years back, so its
dilapidated state is absolutely perfect.
It bugged me a little that actresses Samantha Dark and Courtney
Bertolone didn't look, nor sound, anything like mother and
daughter. Who knows, maybe she was adopted. Despite that,
both were very good in their roles, and Bertolone shed the
dreaded "child actors almost always suck" stigma. Surprising
since this is her first film. Being the niece of the director,
some talent must have rubbed off. The rest of the cast also
put in good performances and really sell the characters.
No gratuitous nudity. No excessive gore. No special effects
bonanza. No deep underpinnings. Yet, a sack over the head
hasn't looked this scary since Friday the 13th Part 2!
Why does it work? The script may be a little lukewarm, but
Mena knows what he wants. It's simple and straightforward
and a serious attempt to make a scary film. It doesn't try
to be funny. It just wants to scare you. And often it does.
It's the direction. It's the camerawork. It's the great
sets. And it's the music, which Mena composed himself. The
music is responsible for some of those jump scares, but
those aren't the only scares. There's genuine tension being
What doesn't work? Sure, the killer seems really attached
to his knife. Really attached. He could have been a tad
more inventive. Maybe just once he could have tried a hacksaw.
Maybe a screwdriver (flat-head of course). How about a coat
hanger? That'd be neat. Something else besides the knife!
Other than the killer's reluctance to try new things, there's
the obligatory I-don't-want-this-to-be-a-brainless-slasher
explanation portion at the end of the film which was far
too lengthy. It's making up for everything it didn't bother
to explain earlier in the movie, but it didn't really need
to. Or at least it could have been done a little more tersely.
Just minor qualms, and nothing that should keep you from
By the end of it all, Malevolence is sure to have
conjured up images of Halloween and The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre, but you won't mind the similarities.
What the cast and crew accomplished with the buget they
were is amazing, and should be recognized. They should feel
very proud. Many of them should go on to bigger and better
things, and I'm anxious to see them.
|Definitely worth renting, and you may be adding
it to your horror collection afterwards. You have
to buy a copy though, you can't just keep the rental.
Though Blockbuster did say no more late fees...
|1. Try to scout out hideout locations thoroughly
to ensure that your neighbor isn't a serial killer.
2. The guy wearing the pillow case on his head might
not be your friend. Always make sure...from a distance.
3. When tying up hostages with duct tape, don't skimp
on the tape.
|-"You open your mouth again, Baby Ruth eats a bullet!"
-"Why would Max bring a shovel, two bags, and a can
of gasoline to rob a bank?"
-"Screaming ain't going to help you."
-"Better call your missing persons bureau. Tell them...we've
got a lot of unhappy endings up here for them."
|• Malevolence grossed more
than $124,000 in theaters domestically.
|• Malevolence was the winner
of Best Feature at the 2003 New York City Horror
Heist Takes a Bad Turn
Isn’t Going to Help You
Stevan Mena Tours the Slaughterhouse
|Stevan Mena Interviews: Horror.com
of Fright | Film
Asylum | AdamBarnick.com
|Samantha Dark Interview: Icons
|Brandon Johnson Interview: Icons
|Keith Chambers Interview: Icons
|John Richard Ingram
||Special Agent William Perkins
||FBI Agent Daley
|Pamela Marie Guida
||Girl in Basement
||Officer at Roadblock
||17-Year-Old Martin Bristol
|David K. Guida II
||Six-Year-Old Martin Bristol
||FBI Agent Parker
|Magnetic Media Productions
|Anchor Bay Entertainment
|COUNTRY OF ORIGIN
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