1) What was your inspiration for writing and directing Malevolence?
Mena: I wanted to do a film that I thought would really grab people’s attention. Since I am an unknown in the industry, and knew I couldn’t afford high paid actors, I wrote a story that could be shot low budget. The horror genre is great because sometimes a low budget can actually enhance a horror films effectiveness.
The story of Malevolence itself came from research I was doing for another
script about the effects of our surroundings on our psychological
development. I posed the question of whether serial killers are born bad, or
could they be turned into killers by the influences of their environment?
That seed bloomed into the idea for the story.
2) How long did it take to shoot, and where did you shoot it?
Mena: The entire shoot took almost two years to complete. We suffered innumerous setbacks, including lost locations, crew mutinies, the winter, running out of money, one actor, Richard Glover, even suffered a Brain Aneurism. Malevolence was photographed in Calverton, LI and Allentown, Pennsylvania.
3) Although your cast may not be "household names" they're all quite good in their roles. Most independent productions — particularly independent horror productions — can't always attract competent actors. How'd you get so lucky?
Mena: We spent over 6 months casting. We read over 1000 actors until we settled on the ones we liked. However, ironically, the actor people respond to the most almost wasn’t even in the film. Brandon Johnson was cast a week before principal photography!
4) Malevolence is not one of those comedic horror movies; it's pretty dialogue-driven, character-driven, and serious. What made you decide to take this route?
Mena: Well, there had been a lot of talk about how horror had lost its edge because of self referential horror spoofs like scream. Critics claimed that audiences could no longer take horror movies seriously. I felt it wasn’t the audience that couldn’t take the films seriously, but the films themselves that weren’t taking the subject matter seriously. I wanted to remind audiences why we grew to like these type of films in the first place. They were meant to be scary, not funny.
5) In your opinion, what is it about visceral horror, especially the idea of an emotionally scarred child, that keeps audiences interested?
Mena: I think audiences are interested in stories that exist in the realm of reality. Chances are you won’t run into a hockey masked psycho, but you may certainly encounter an emotionally traumatized child who grows up to be antisocial. It’s the fear that it does happen that’s scary and interesting. Malevolence is of course an extreme example. I think people can even relate on an empathetic level.
6) What has viewer feedback been on Malevolence? (Did you test-screen it, did
you show it at film festivals, etc.?)
Mena: Viewer feedback has been extremely positive. We did some preliminary test screenings, and they were very positive. Then we entered some festivals and won several Best Feature Awards, some even in non horror festivals. There are always people who don’t get the genre, but the ones who do have been over the top. So much so, it took me by surprise. I never intended Malevolence to be this big phenomenon. It was just my first attempt at feature filmmaking. A calling card to the industry. Had I known what I had, I would have tried to raise some real money!
7) Have you ever had a weird fan experience?
Mena: For me, just the idea of having fans is weird. I don’t think I can ever get used to that. But, one person asked me to sign a flyer I was handing out when promoting the film. He posted it on Ebay and it sold for 20 dollars. That was weird. For a long while my signature on a check was worthless.
8) What scares you, in the movies?
Mena: Vulnerability. Coming to care about characters and then fearing for their survival. It’s rare, but that scares me. I hate to see the ones I like get it. It’s rare to connect to characters like that. So it’s rare for me to get scared in a movie. Usually most new horror films are the result of board room meetings on demographics, not good storytelling.
9) What is your greatest fear in life?
Mena: Bad things happening to the ones I love.
10) If your life was a movie, in what section would I find it in the video store?
Mena: The 99 cent bin.
Interview by Staci Layne Wilson