Malevolence is writer/director Stevan Mena’s throwback to the low budget horror flicks from the 70’s like the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Halloween. In fact, the film seems to be a combination of the two with a masked serial killer stalking bank robbers and their hostages in both an abandoned home and an equally abandoned nearby slaughterhouse.
The film opens in 1989 as a young six-year-old boy named Martin Bristol has disappeared. We then watch a disturbing scene of a man murdering a bound female victim in front of the captive little boy. The film then switches forward to a decade later with boyfriend and girlfriend Julian (R. Brandon Johnson) and Marylin (Heather Magee) participating in a bank robbery with Marylin’s brother Max (Keith Chambers) and partner Kurt (Richard Glover). The robbery goes awry and while they escape with the money, Max is shot and soon dies. They split up, but plan to meet at an abandoned house deep in the woods later on. Marylin and Julian go to bury Max, while Kurt is forced to abandon his vehicle and commandeers an SUV containing pretty single mom Samantha (Samantha Dark) and her teen daughter Courtney (Courtney Bertolone). They soon will all converge at the house, but the empty dwelling is not as deserted as they think. A masked killer has made the nearby abandoned slaughterhouse his home and the old home is part of his stalking ground. When Courtney escapes and is pursued by Kurt into the slaughterhouse, the vicious killer is made aware there are intruders in his domain and sets his sights on robber and hostage alike.
In the spirit of the films listed above, that obviously inspired this low budget chiller, Malevolence delivers some solid scares and suspense provided by Director Steve Mena who does well recreating a pre-Scream horror thriller…sans in-jokes and back to basics. And I really liked his no nonsense approach without all the winks, nods and pop culture references that so many of today’s filmmakers feel the need to inject into their films. That can be fun, but it’s nice to see someone go old school and take a more straightforward approach. He has a really nice eye for shots, which adds a lot of atmosphere, and is aided by some crisp cinematography by Tsuyoshi Kimoto and overall the film has a nice sense of dread and a really unsettling visual style.
His cast does well enough, too. No Oscars, but no Razzies either. Johnson provides a suitable reluctant robber turned hero. Pretty lead Samantha Dark seems to have an English accent, which sticks out since she’s playing a soccer mom from suburban P.A., but since she spends much of the film screaming or gagged with duct tape, it doesn’t distract too much. The rest are all adequate in portraying their characters and the usual cliched characterizations that populate these kind of films are avoided here by writer Mena.
Not quite a classic, but a good solid horror flick for a Saturday night fright fest. Director Stevan Mena shows some real potential and in the style of John Carpenter, who is clearly an influence, he not only writes, produces and directs, but also composed the score. His follow-up, the prequel Bereavement, really upped the ante with a horrifying look back at how Malevolence’s killer came to be.
Malevolence may not satisfy some of today’s generation of horror fans raised on the glossy, self-aware horror films of the post Scream era… and I do love Scream… but, as someone raised on the horror of the 70s and 80s, this was a breath of nostalgic fresh air and a return to a more simple and direct style of horror flick.
3 butcher knives!