Malevolence starts out as a drama/thriller, focusing on a small group of amateur bank robbers who find themselves on the run and hiding out. Their hideout is a derelict farmhouse that just happens to be next door(ish) to an abandoned slaughterhouse where a serial killer makes his home. Looking something like one of Michael Jackson’s kids on a stroll out, our shrouded maniac doesn’t really cut it in the scare department — he doesn’t crack wise like Freddy; he doesn’t have a distinctive mannerism like the Jason head-tilt; and he’s not nearly as diehard as Michael Myers.
There’s a subplot involving six-year-old Martin Bristol (David K. Guida II) who was kidnapped some years before the bank heist, and forced to watch his abductor hook and kill a captive young woman in the basement. After the robbery goes bad, our focus switches to two hostages — carjacked Samantha Harrison (Samantha Dark) and her preteen daughter, Courtney (Courtney Bertolone). Before long, everyone has to face the nameless killer. Not all will survive.
Even though Malevolence is billed as an homage and throwback to gritty 70s fright flicks, it leans on few of the genre’s clichés — most conspicuously missing are the teens. What’s old school horror without promiscuous babes, dumb dudes, and lots of pot and liquor? There are no “famous last words” and only a few half-assed “Don’t go in there!” moments.
For a presumably heartfelt homage, Malevolence is surprisingly low-key and almost lethargic. While the overall style of filmmaking may be surface-similar to early Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter, that’s probably not be reason enough to watch for the casual movie and thriller fan.
Still, the movie is an accomplishment: Written, directed, edited, composed, and basically financed by Stevan Mena, it is, at least, a cohesive, linear, easy-to-follow, straight ahead horror movie. Uneven acting and often poorly-lit cinematography drag the viewing experience down a bit, but I have seen much, much worse. For people interested in indie filmmaking and those who must see every horror movie, Malevolence is worth a look.
Additional release material includes an over-the-movie commentary, a chat with actress Dark, and a making-of featurette called Back to the Slaughterhouse. There’s also the script in PDF format (DVD-ROM) and TV and radio spots.
Reviewed by Staci Layne Wilson