Malevolence Movie Review
Review by Peter West
Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Written and Directed by Stevan Mena
Brandon Johnson as Julian
Samantha Dark as Sam
Heather Magee as Marylin
Richard Glover as Kurt
Mia Lotringer as Valerie
Courtney Bertolone as Courtney
Keith Chambers as Max
John Richard Ingram as Sheriff
Is Stevan Mena the successor to John Carpenter?
Shortly before attending HorrorFind Weekend in Hunt Valley, Maryland I received a invitation to catch a sneak preview of Malevolence at the Regal Cinema just down the street from the Marriot Hotel where HorrorFind was being held. So I grabbed Supernova and the two us attended this appropriately timed (Friday the 13th of August at midnight) screening. We were greeted at the door by Director Stevan Mena and Brandon Johnson (lead character Julian from the film). It was a pretty impressive crowd, one of the largest theaters in the complex with hardly a empty seat. I got the best seat in the house to check this out, last row dead center. I notice Michael Felsher of Anchor Bay and Don May Jr. of Synapse Films in the crowd. Just before the lights dim we were treated to some opening words by Michael Felsher, Malevolence is the first film that Anchor Bay is releasing theatrically.
The light dim and the show starts... Right away we are taken into a scene of absolute horror! A young boy is kidnapped and forced to watch the brutal death of a young girl. Next we taken years into the future where characters Julian, Marylin and Max are planning a bank robbery. When the robbery goes down badly and Max is shot, they hurry to meet the bagman Kurt at a abandoned house in the woods. Along the way to the hideout, Kurt has a car accident and kidnaps Samantha and her daughter Courtney at a gas station. They arrive at the hideout and that's where the horror begins!
Director Mena then leads us through sixty of the most nerve racking minutes I've ever sat through (the film is about 90 minutes in total), or maybe I should say tried to sit still through. We weave through the dilapidated buildings with music which flows with every step the characters take. Of course there's a few cheap thrills, however, sadly for the characters, most of the real thrills involve their demise. The soundtrack completely takes over your nerves as we go from scene to scene and never lets go of you. I find myself thinking back to 1978 when I first saw Halloween in the theater. This was the first time in 26 years that I felt so uneasy sitting in my seat at a theater!
The locations used for the film were incredible and, as I find out later, all too real. Without giving anything away, I will say that the ending is no happy celebration of victims triumphing over evil. The star of the film is the music and cinematography, you feel you are walking as part of the camera lens and the music grabs your soul. Malevolence is truly one of the best indie releases in years. Taking us back to a tried and true formula of taking the viewer for a ride into hell! While not overly gory or relying on nudity, it falls back to the basic roots of great filmaking, plot, visuals, acting and, most important, sound.
Leaving the theater SuperNova and I were both interviewed for audience reaction.
The next morning SuperNova and I sat down with Director Stevan Mena in the lounge at the hotel to chat a bit about Malevolence. You'll have to excuse me here. Though I was well prepared with questions written in advance and a high powered Compaq laptop to do the interview on, we had some issues. First off the mouse would not work, now mind you just thirty minutes earlier it was working fine. Then as I stumble with the touchpad to open the file with my questions, my laptop powered off and would not power back on. My battery was fully charged, prior to this I had nothing ever go wrong with this laptop. Stevan told me that's happened several times before when he's around. During one interview the interviewer's PDA went dead, after leaving Mena's presence it started working again. Okay I can take a joke, like this guy really kills computers with his presence... I packed my laptop away and got on with the interview. Why this little rant? Just to make a excuse for why I have to write this all from memory.
First question came from SuperNova asking Mena what kind of education he had as a filmmaker. Stevan explains to us how his first day in filmaking class at college he was told when he mentioned his plans on being a writer/director he was told by his instructor"you and a million other guys". Stevan said he knew he was not long for school, however the filming of Malevolence was a greater education than he could have received in any formal training. The idea for Malevolence first came to him in 1996. What we saw last night was the middle part of a trilogy that will in future installments cover the beginning where the little boy is kidnapped and his education on becoming a killer and in the third part pick up where Malevolence left off.
I asked whether the movie was filmed on film versus DV, a question I was pretty sure I knew the answer to (since I love film) and sure enough I was right, it was shot on 35mm film. "That's why my movie was taken serious." explained Stevan. "So many production companies receive films on DV, Malevolence being shot on 35mm separated us from the competition and probably is the main reason we're here now". "It was tough when the first batch of film cost $15,000, and it did increase the cost tremendously." Stevan continued.
Stevan and I then talked about the hardship of raising money. Like many others, Stevan basically maxed out every credit card and hocked, begged and borrowed all he could. As things started to come together he did get investors. "One day I was so stressed out, we needed $10,000 that day or filming was going to stop. People needed to get paid!", "Somehow we got it." Mena said with probably the same sigh of relief he had the day he got the dough.
Noticing the Cinematographer was Tsuyoshi Kimoto, I asked Stevan if the camera angles had a Japanese influence on them? Stevan told me this was the first film in the horror genre that Kimoto had done and it was a combination of Mena's vision and Kimoto's ability to make that happen. We then got to the highlight of the film, the soundtrack. Stevan said "I was into composing music well before filmaking." Supernova and I both concurred that, like Halloween, the music made the movie!
Stevan Mena is very proud of this his first film, as well he should be. Malevolence is the first in a series of three films he has planned along this plot line. I really can't wait to see the next one! This is the first theatrical review of a film by HorrorTalk and it was a very enjoyable experience. I recommend highly when it makes it to a theater near you that you by all means go out and see it. No gimmicks just a plain old damn good film. Years in the future I predict we'll see some of the best horror films of the decade from Stevan Mena.
On another note, back to my laptop... As soon as I got back to my hotel room, it powered up fine, the mouse worked perfectly as before... Is there something about Stevan Mena that electronics screw up in his presence? I'd have to try it again to truly know the answer. However I can answer the question I first pose at the top of this review. I truly think the successor to John Carpenter has been crowned, all with a bit of Malevolence.