Directed by Stevan Mena
Produced by Stevan Mena
Written by Steven Mena
Director of Photograpy Tsuyoshi Kimoto
Music by Stevan Mena
Cast: Brandon Johnson, Samantha Dark, Heather Magee & Keith Chambers

2004/85 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
1.85:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1

Review from the Anchor Bay Entertainment DVD

In 1984, a film entitled TERROR IN THE AISLES was released to theaters. Hosted by Nancy Allen and Donald Pleasence, the film was little more than clips from many horror films and thrillers (the definition of horror was very loose, as the movie had scenes from HALLOWEEN and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE side-by-side with clips from THE SILENT PARTNER, WAIT UNTIL DARK, and NIGHTHAWKS.) A "clip movie" may seem like an odd idea, but remember, this was at the dawn of the home video age, so this may have been the only way for some audience members to see parts of these movies. Today, we can watch the majority of these films, in whole, whenever we want. But, if you are interested in something similar to TERROR IN THE AISLES, then you may want to check out Stevan Mena's MALEVOLENCE, as it lifts scenes from many popular horror films from the last 40 years.

MALEVOLENCE opens with a peculiar scene in which a young boy is forced to witness the murder of a woman who is chained to the ceiling in a basement. The story then jumps ahead ten years. Four criminals, Julian (Brandon Johnson), Marilyn (Heather Magee), Kurt (Richard Glover), and Max (Keith Chambers) attempt a bank robbery, which immediately goes sour. They split up, agreeing to meet at a pre-determined rendezvous point. On the way there, Kurt has car trouble, and carjacks a van containing Samantha (Samantha Dark) and Courtney (Courtney Bertolone). Once everyone has arrived at the hideout, captives in tow, they begin to argue about their next move. This activity arouses the neighbor, who just happens to be a serial killer. His arrival on the scene spells disaster for the group as each member attempts to survive the night.

MALEVOLENCE composer/writer/producer/director Stevan Mena is certainly a fan of horror films from the past and he wears this affection on his sleeve. Unfortunately, he also puts a ton of it in the movie. From the outset, MALEVOLENCE reminded me of other movies, which isn't unusual, but as the film progressed, I felt as if I were actually watching these other films, all edited together. As I recall, MALEVOLENCE contained elements of PSYCHO, RESERVOIR DOGS, LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, HALLOWEEN, and FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. I know what some of you are thinking, "There are no original movies anymore." While that may be true, MALEVOLENCE goes beyond simply nodding to these film or paying tribute to these trailblazing movies, but instead lifts ideas and looks from them.

I'm not accusing Mena of plagiarism, but simply of lazy storytelling. The patchwork script contains few surprises and the movie’s big plot twist is very predictable. (Astute readers can guess it simply from reading this review.) The dialogue is clunky and the pacing is often sluggish. There is essentially no character development. There’s nothing wrong with letting your love for horror films steer your film, but Mena allowed it to hijack the movie and drive it off of a cliff. (But at least MALEVOLENCE isn’t a total fan-boy fest such as THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING.)

Having said all of that, MALEVOLENCE isn’t a totally lost cause. While the story may suffer, Mena has managed to give the film a very nice look on a miniscule budget. The spooky locations add to the ambience of the film and the dark photography is beneficial as well. Mena foregoes any camera wizardry, but sets up effective shots nonetheless. And, I must admit, the denouement made me jump. Overall, the acting is average for a movie of this caliber, with Brandon Johnson doing a good job in the lead role. MALEVOLENCE isn’t the next great independent film that we’ve all been waiting for, but it is mildly entertaining, and should be a treat for obsessive horror fans who will love picking out all of the references in the film.

MALEVOLENCE stalks DVD courtesy of Anchor Bay Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The DVD is part of Anchor Bay’s “DiViMaX” line, which promises “state-of-the-art picture quality”. For a low-budget film of this nature, the image looks very good. The picture is sharp and clear, showing basically no grain or defects from the source material. MALEVOLENCE was shot on 35mm film and the medium helps to really differentiate the light from dark scenes. Most of the film takes place at night, but the action is always visible. The colors are good, although the overall look of the film is a bit too blue at times. There is some minor artifacting here, but nothing overwhelming. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio which is very good. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects with no evidence of hissing or distortion. Unlike other films of this type, there is that sense of overdone foley or ADR effects on this track. The score sounds fine (even if it is a bit too reminiscent of the HALLOWEEN music at times). The track provides some nice surround and subwoofer effects during the key “shock” moments.

This Special Edition DVD of MALEVOLENCE contains several extra features. We start with an audio commentary from Mena, actor Brandon Johnson, and Associate Producer Eddie Akmal. This is an interesting commentary, as Mena immediately reveals that MALEVOLENCE is the middle part of trilogy. This is a very thorough chat, as the trio give very detailed accounts of the film's production, giving special attention to the actors and the locations. They keep the conversation up throughout, often touching on the perils of low-budget filmmaking. Next up is "Back to the Slaughterhouse" (31 minutes), a making of featurette which is chock full of memorable quotes from Mena, such as "MALEVOLENCE is essentially a Freudian study of nature vs. nurture." (I have degrees in psychology and counseling, so I found that statement quite shocking.), "(I was) inherently working with derivative material.", and "If you're familiar with old horror films, you'll certainly see those subtle influences layered throughout MALEVOLENCE." Well, at least he's honest. Beyond that, this is a fairly thorough segment, as Mena talks about the history of the film, the story, the actors, and the locations. "The Dark Side of Horror" is a 13-minute featurette which focuses on Samantha Dark, allowing her to talk about her experiences on the film and her views on horror films. The DVD contains 10 minutes of "Deleted Scenes", five of which are actual deleted scenes, while the last four are outtakes. The extras are rounded out by a "Photo Gallery", "Rehearsal Footage" (90 seconds), a full-frame "Trailer", and "TV/Radio Spots". The packaging for MALEVOLENCE is interesting, as it features a clear slipcase, which has graphics printed on it, which mixes nicely with the keepcase box art. However, the text on the back of the box gives away one of the film's main plot twists.





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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2005. ©