There’s always a worry in approaching low-budget horror flicks. On the one hand, the film in question could be the work of someone with a huge passion for what they do, a Sam Raimi, say. On the other, however, it could simply be a cynical means to an end; a film which is being made solely to allow its makers to break into the industry. After all, horror films are easily made, right?
Malevolence, to my utmost frustration, falls into the latter camp. In fact, it’s the perfect example of a film made by someone with nothing to say. Director Stevan Mena, who also serves as writer, producer, co-editor and composer, simply throws in various over-familiar devices (madman on the loose, isolated house, lots of screaming) whilst also stealing heavily from Quentin Tarantino. Indeed, he’s seemingly of the impression that the low-budget crime flick is also easily made and as such we arrive at an ungainly hybrid of The Evil Dead and Reservoir Dogs.
The big problem is that Mena would appear to have no understanding of either – or at least of what makes them work. He provides plenty of nods in their direction, such as the post-robbery warehouse being transposed to an isolated rural dwelling, but to little discernible effect. Most damaging is the fact that this gives Malevolence certain pretensions. It doesn’t want to be a cheap and cheerful effort in which people just scream and die, but wants to have them speak catchy, imminently quotable dialogue in between. And needless to say, Mena isn’t the greatest of wordsmiths and as such his attempts fall spectacularly flat. All of which makes his film all the more difficult to like – had it been more honest in its approach and gone for something a little simpler, then no doubt it would have been much easier on the viewer.
Not helping matters is the fact that the bad dialogue is mouthed solely by bad actors – though it’s difficult to ascertain as to which is making the other worse – and Sena’s obvious failings with the most fundamental of requirements. Basics such as holding a scene together appear to be of the utmost difficulty and elude him entirely. Of course, this proves especially trying as his screenplay is also utterly predictable. From the very first scene we know who murderer is and from the various ciphers on display we know exactly who’s going to die and in what order. Ultimately, we’re left with just another horror film – and in an overpopulated market we quite frankly need a little bit more.
An awful film, it is perhaps fitting that Malevolence comes with an awful presentation. Though anamorphic, Anchor Bay are releasing this in the UK as an NTSC-PAL transfer which renders the already dark print impossibly murky and, at points, near unwatchable. Moreover, such a situation also results in a loss of clarity and intermittent examples of artefacting. All in all, a huge disappointment.
Things improve somewhat with the sound quality. As is usual with Anchor Bay we get the film in a variety of mixes, namely 2.0 and 5.1 channel Dolby Digital as well as DTS. Though low budget it would appear that Malevolence’s intended soundtrack is the 5.1 mix and as such this is the one to go for. Indeed, under such circumstances the stereo option is understandably less impressive, whilst the DTS doesn’t really add all that much. Moreover, each is as technically sound as the other, without ever truly impressing.
What should impress is the amount of extras, but sadly these mostly prove less than worthwhile. The commentary, which brings together Mena with actor Brandon Thompson and associate producer/co-editor Eddie Akmal, is exceedingly dull, with none of the trio demonstrating any genuine enthusiasm for their end result, indeed they repeatedly mention the compromises they had to make. Worse, however, is the fact that they claim Malevolence forms part of an intended trilogy – a truly horrifying thought!
The two featurettes are equally trying. Mena is the main contributor to the first, a 31-minute piece entitled ‘Back to the Slaughterhouse’, which has problems as soon as he starts talking about the film’s supposed big themes and intentions. The second, ‘The Dark Side of Horror’ is an extended interview with actress Samantha Dark, though its 13 minutes cover little ground of interest and is largely bulked out with clips from the film as well as those from Halloween, The Evil Dead and Children of the Corn, all Dark’s favourites and all, coincidentally, released by Anchor Bay.
Rounding off the package are nine deleted scenes (which, of course, are no better than those found in the final cut, even if some are outtakes rather than genuine deleted scenes), a minutes worth of rehearsal footage, plus the usual collection of trailers, TV and radio spots, and a picture gallery. (The disc is therefore identical to the Region 1 Anchor Bay release with the exception of the downloadable screenplay, which doesn’t appear here.)
Unlike the main feature, none of the extras come with optional English subtitles.