Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Malevolence (2004)

It’s been quite some time since a horror movie managed to both impress and scare me. The last one I remember really having a strong affect on me was The Descent. The Descent was different and original, had a great cast and showcased some of the most claustrophobic and scary atmospheres in horror history. Let’s just say, it scared the piss outta me.

With Malevolence, I was expecting another brutal but ultimately boring slasherfest. Wow! Was I ever wrong! If it was still 2004 (the year it was released) Malevolence surely would have made my top 10 list.

A bank heist goes wrong and the four thieves are forced to flee for their lives. Kurt takes the money and escapes in his car while Marylin, Julian and a fatally wounded Max take a separate car. Their goal is to meet up at an isolated and abandoned house in the country and use it as their hide-out. Things go awry when Kurt’s car has a blow out and he decides to carjack mother and daughter Samantha and Courtney. He makes them drive to the hide-out, where Courtney makes a daring escape. Unfortunately, she runs to a nearby slaughterhouse that appears abandoned while Kurt gives chase. The slaughterhouse is actually home to a vicious serial killer that has been operating for about a decade.

Meanwhile, after burying Max, Marylin and Julian head to the hide-out to find Kurt and the money missing and Samantha tied up in a corner. When they head out to find Kurt, they discover that they have bigger problems than missing loot…they must fight for their lives as the serial killer stalks and hunts them down.

This was a great first-time feature film by director/writer/editor/producer/composer Stevan Mena. Malevolence echoes classic horror films like Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Friday the 13th, Halloween and even Nightmare on Elm Street. Mena recognizes the masters of horror and doesn’t rip-off the greats, instead managing to pay homage to them while creating his own nail-bitingly suspenseful movie.

What is even more amazing is that this was a low-budget film and was independently financed (mainly by Mena himself) but still manages to look better (and certainly more stylish) than most big budget affairs. Mena insisted on shooting on 35mm film, even though it’s a lot pricier than digital, but the result looks amazing. Cinematographer Tsyuoshi Kimoto captures strikingly beautiful shots of the countryside and also manages to compose some very frightening scenes. The music (composed by Mena himself) also adds a lot to the creepy atmosphere throughout. Mena took his cue mainly from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Halloween in composing a very effective score. Both the striking visuals and the ominous score make this film a cut above any old run-of-the-mill horror film.

For a low budget feature, the acting is surprisingly good, especially from lead Brandon Johnson, who plays criminal-with-a-conscience Julian. Samantha Dark as captive Samantha also does a wonderful job as the mother in distress, as does Courtney Bertolone, the young girl who plays Samantha’s feisty daughter Courtney.

The film is a more serious and more grown-up approach to the slasher movie. Unlike most slashers, it is not cheesy or silly and doesn’t feature half-naked women running across the screen or buckets of gore to make up for lack of a story. It is a tense, thrilling and suspenseful ride made by a fellow horror fan that manages to fuse psychological thrills within a slasher story.

I have a lot of enthusiasm for Malevolence and hope to share the experience with friends. Mena hid a lot of references to other horror films within the movie, so this is a great flick to watch with fellow horror fans to try and find all the clever nods to other movies.

Malevolence is a wicked throwback to seminal horror films of the late 70s and 80s. If you are looking for something along the lines of Halloween, Friday the 13th and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, look no further than Malevolence!

Check out Malevolence on Amazon.com!

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