A Slasher film that needs to be discovered……
I suppose the question is “why do I love Malevolence so much?”
I have already told the director of this fine film that his magnificent horror is in my Top 10 of all time Slash films which is quite a statement considering regular readers of HorrorCultFilms and now Hacked 2 Pieces, know that this is the genre that I love the most!
There are so many films out there that many consider the best, for every Scream fan you meet a Hatchet fanatic and then you have the crowd who can spend an evening arguing who is the best between Freddy and Jason even though a film itself failed to end this argument! Then of course you have got the Granddad of them all, a film that all should look up to, Halloween and its that name that registers in your mind when you first watch Malevolence simply because the parallels between the two are too hard to ignore! But then before I get to the answer to the question that started this review, I suppose I need to go back to the beginning, and this story starts in 2005, a year when my favourite football club lifted the European Cup for the fifth time and the name Stevan Mena would enter my life!
2005 saw the beginning of the end of J horror! Films of a crazed woman ghost with long black hair were beginning to tire especially with the American re-makes of the original films beginning to hit the screen at an alarming rate. That year had already seen The Ring II and Dark Water get the glossy treatment to not much critical joy and the theme of spooky freaky stuff was awash with other films like Hide and Seek and Bogeyman all jumping on the bandwagon. Other films did not fare better and the biggest shock of the year was the Scream duo of Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson flopping big time with their Werewolf disaster Cursed that still to this day you can feel the deep level of gasp the fans suffered on first watch. Unknown at the time a new theme was beginning to rise from the depths of the horror ocean and it was going by the name of Jigsaw whose second outing in Saw II gained even more fans and bucks that the term gore-porn was all set to enter the mind of horror fans everywhere. Saw was the name on everyone’s lips, the blood and violence was just what the fans wanted after a few years of haunting and while the cinema goers were thrilled by the body parts flying across the screen, a Slash film of old was begging to be found, and I am not talking about the Paris Hilton film -no not that one- House Of Wax of course!
The film in question is of course MaleVolence a movie that was released in 2004 and was criminally ignored by mostly everyone! Its not my job to complain about the injustice of it all and why it did at the time not get the appreciation it fully deserved but the power of the film was too good to ignore, like all good stories it refused to die and something strange was happening, for Mena it was a start of something that was quite stunning!
The lack of advertisement in Great Britain meant that MaleVolence headed straight for the DVD market where one day on my way to work I picked up my monthly film magazine and my eye was drawn to a small advert of the film. I remember the quote “Possibly the best Slasher film for years” underneath the art cover which struck a chord with me. I really needed to this film to see how such a critic could dare say this about a film that was unheard. of, but watching it back then it was near impossible. All my local Video stores did not have it stock and online rentals were not even heard of then, so trying to get this film was near impossible. Not even the shops that stocked videos and DVD’s to buy had any so I knew that this was a film that will probably pass me by. A few weeks later I had to work away and one day on my lunch break I stumbled into the local Supermarket and while glancing at the DVD section my heart stopped. My eyes were drawn to a cover that was staring back at me and my horror juices were going in full flow, no I did not find a deluxe copy of Halloween but that of MaleVolence and the thrill of getting this film was too much to bare and with haste, I paid for it, finished work early and rushed home to watch it.
You can guess I was not disappointed!
MaleVolence is a throwback to years gone bye. Like Mena said in is interview with me that his main intention was to remind fans what was great about these films in the first place. Its not just a lavish love letter to slash of old but a gentle reminder of when the late 70’s and early 80’s were awash of slash films that were destined to be loved. You could easy put a copy of the 1979 classic Tourist Trap and then MaleVolence and you really would believe that the two films were born in the same era!
But then MaleVolence is not that simple when it comes to the Slash formula! What is amazing now if you watching for the first time is that the opening sequence will bring a sigh of despair, if only for a brief few minutes but that is no fault of Mena or the film! The films starts with a kidnap of a young boy who then has to witness a woman being strung up and all set to be tortured and killed by the local serial killer! For that few seconds we see on screen there is no denying that the newcomer will think that what they about to watch is just another Saw wannabee and that is because so many films have been released that start the same even though the jigsaw story was just starting to walk when Malevolence was released! Lucky this dip into what seems the gore-porn wave is a blink and miss moment and we set off in a total different direction that actually throws you off the scent for a while.
TEN YEARS LATER….
The main thrust of the story is of a bank job that goes wrong! Julian (Brandon Johnson) and Marilyn (Heather Magee) are in desperate need for money and take the iillogical step of robbing a bank. Hooking up with Julian’s brother Max (Keith Chambers)and his friend Kurt (Richard Glover) the plan goes all Reseviour Dogs with Max shot and the entire police force chasing them. With the dual chaos of the gang seperating, Kurt is left all on his own and running for his life until he stumbles on an empty car at a gas station and jumps in. Of course being an horror there is no such thing as an easy ride, and sitting at the back seat is an innocent child called Courtney (Courtney Bertolone) who is waiting for her mum Samantha (Samantha Dark) to return. When she does, Kurt in sheer survival mode kidnaps the two and forces them to drive him to an abandoned farm house in the middle of nowhere, where he will meet up with Julian and Marilyn.
If you new to this film and yet to watch, you can tell by reading that this is no straight Stalk and Slash horror which you may come to expect. There are no silly girls with big breasts running up the staircase when they should be heading for the door. Its a film that I would call the anti Scream, in which there is no time for playful antics. It also works because the set up moves away from the usual cliche of high school virgins getting hacked to death. Its like what Shrek said in his onion speech, its all about the layers and MaleVolence is all about stripping away them all until we get to the Slash part. In the first half hour we have an abduction, a b
ank robbery, a kidnap, before we finally hit the night time. You would only guess that you are watching an horror movie due to the fact that Mena’s own personal score which is haunting and signals that there is something evil lurking in the shadow.
When Courtney is brave enough to try and escape and runs away towards a house nearby with Kurt following, the film swings from wrong heist to full fledged horror and its here we get an introduction to the new bogeyman in town! What is great is that there is no sense of what is going to happen. In different hands, any other director would have showed their hand early and not been brave enough to show the same restrain that Mena managed to. There is an argument that some horror fans may find the lack of horror at the start a bit off putting but it reminded me of say Halloween, where the slow build up pays off to a tremendous affect. You can say the same here, because when Kurt bumps into the last person on earth he should have, and then when we see Julian and Marilyn turn up to look for him, its right at this moment your horror juices are flowing and if you are a slasher fan of old, then you will be in your element!
MaleVolence becomes the very thing you love about slash and the nods to the great films of the past will have you cheering with joy. There is a moment that will have Myers fans smiling from ear to ear, it comes when we see Julian and Marilyn talking to each other and we the viewer see this Boogeyman looking at them through the window. But it gets better. The killer who could easy be Michael but is dressed up like Jason from Friday 13th Part II creeps silently in the shadows, unseen and always watching but ready to move without any disregard for human life.
There is just something very simple and beautiful about the movie, from the music that nods to Carpenter and the way its filmed, it plays like the bastard offspring of the films you loved has a child and you can see why it is so universally loved by those who have seen it! Also what works even more so in its favour is that Mena does not throw buckets of blood to the screen so for those who are sick of scenes of excessive torture and limbs flying across at them will find great delight at the old fashioned setting. The main intention is to build the suspense and then shock the viewer when the killings start, it surely makes the point that they do not make them like this anymore.
Of course even for my undying love for the film I can not deny that Malevolence does not offer no new surprises to the genre. When the Bogeyman starts to have fun, the sequence is set for Halloween type shots that you find hard to shake. The moment that that sums this up is when Julie is standing to her back from the staircase and the killer slowly starts to creep behind her. It is a pure horror slash moment that makes you wonder just what Mena could do if he was offered a Halloween film.
Maybe my love for Myers is a bit biased towards MaleVolence because make no mistake this is the closet I’ve felt with a horror that touches the blueprint that Carpenter wrote. If I had to find fault and its a small one, is that once the killings are done and the film moves back to the daylight, we get a 10 minute sequence that explains a lot of the back-story. Its always good to keep the horror viewer in the dark and not have everything explained to them but again in Mena’s defence I believe that he wrote this in mind in hope that a prequel/sequel would be made or if not and this was just a one off, then he leaves the viewers with all the answers they require.
Of course back then Mena had no idea that a prequel or a further sequel would follow, both films that are need to be watched to be appreciated.
The film does end though in a typical slash fashion, you know that its coming but when it does, you appreciate how it plays out and if you a newcomer, you’ll appreciate that there are now two films you can binge watch that continue the story…..and not have to wait for years like most of us did!
Lets go back then to the original question “Why I love MaleVolence so much?” To answer that I have to give you two reasons:
The First is that I simply believe that if all Slasher fans including myself were given a budget of $200,000 and was told to go out and make a Slash film, then nearly 95% of us would make something just like MaleVolence. It really does have this feel of being a slasher made for all the fans of the genre. On first watch I could smell the love of these films throughout and I instantly had a connection with Stevan Mena. The film gives this air that this is a director who is living his dream, doing something many of us wish we could but have not got the drive to do anything about it. For 90 minutes of the running time I was in a jealous rage that Mena had done something that I always wanted to do, but was also in awe that he managed to pull it off!
The other reason is that many films that I cherish in my life hold so much debt to Malevolence. Back in 2005 I was still a young lad under the impression that films that were not released to box-office glory were not considered good enough to seek out. Malevolence changed my outlook to this awful attitude. It introduced me to a world where the thrill is to seek out films that were so good but unloved, to have a mission to spread the word about films that deserve their time in the limelight! Only a few weeks after watching Malevolence, others came to light like the truly classic Session 9 which caught my eye and that was followed by Lighthouse and many others. Its a trait that have stuck with me to this day and films like The Torment, Baby Blues, The Objective, are all which I believe are masterpieces of horror but widely not known to the wider public which have now entered my best of all time chart! its thanks to this film that I now look forward to seeing what hidden delights get released on Monday Morning DVD shelves than the big hitters which sail straight to the top of the box-office!
While doing my research for MaleVolence I stumbled on a few negative reviews that made me weep and angry. “Its just a copy of films of old!” was one that stuck out and made me shake my head with frustration. Yes there are moments that you can see are homage to films like Halloween, Texas and Friday but what is the problem with that. MaleVolence struck a chord with fans everywhere because it offered a new Bogeyman to the genre. How can you criticise a film that follows the blueprint of Slash and offers a new character to the horror vault. Mena who is surely destined for big things, offers more in the ninety minute running time than any of those dire re-makes of old classics that seem to be coming out an alarming rate. There is no comparison between this and say the Jason re-make. What did that offer? Nothing, no I am sorry it did show us that Jason can run and that was it, did every horror fan watching that turn to their partner or friends and say straight after “Oooh, can not wait for the sequel!” I guess my answer would be no, but at least with MaleVolence you WILL want to see the continuation of this story. Not many films are made on the cheap like this and become such a worldwide cult hit, and one of the best signs you can have is that this, an unheard horror, has actually got a sequel.
Not many films manage to pull that off but that is what happened to MaleVolence with the prequel BereaVement gaining rave reviews on release. Its not as good as its original but still one of the stronger sequels of horror you will ever see. We all wait now for the planned MaleVolence 3 to finish off the trilogy and if you reading this review and haven’t seen this 2005 offering, then what are you waiting for?
You’ve missed a classic.