What a great find this film has been. I should have known when I saw that it was a Special DiviMax Edition from Anchor Bay that I was in for a treat. Anchor Bay takes such great pains to release legitimately special editions of it’s titles, that I should have known that Malevolence was going to be something good. I am not sure what kind of initial release this movie had, but I think it will do very well for itself on DVD. This movie is so well made, such a love letter to horror films in general, that I think it will very easily find a wide audience if it hasn’t already.
Starting in the late 1980s and then moving to the late 1990s, Malevolence tells the tale of a boy who witnesses brutal killings as a youth, and then grows up to be a killer himself. The thing is, this movie begins as a heist film, and the thieves decamp to this house that they think is abandoned. Sadly, they end up crossing paths with the serial killer who inhabits this film. I could say more about the plot, but I think it’s best to just let you know that this movie is anything but typical. It has been awhile since a horror movie has shown us a killer in this way. In fact, the way this movie is shot and how they handle the killings reminds me a great deal of the early Friday the 13th and Halloween films. There is a deliberateness to this movie that adds a whole other level of fear. Add to this a soundtrack that has been composed by the director and what you get is a very original, very organic piece of horror that makes you hope that Stevan Mena, the person who helmed this film, gets a chance to make many more.
Malevolence is a such a well constructed, thickly layered movie and you can tell that it’s creators have nothing but reverence for the genre. I also appreciated how they handled the story of the film. It isn’t just a simple slasher movie, it never gets muddled with the different subplots, it just keeps things simple and direct and as a result you get a film of amazing clarity and vision. This DVD is a fine addition to any DVD collectors bin.
Back to the Slaughterhouse Featurette
This is a well documented piece on everything that went into bringing Malevolence to the screen. The creators of this movie really take us inside this film, showing us what it took for them to get this movie made. They point out little things that maybe we didn’t catch on our first viewing, and honestly, after watching this featurette, I just wanted to screen this film again. This is a very solid companion piece to this movie. Hopefully, they will now make the other two films in the trilogy.
The Dark Side of Horror
The star of Malevolence, Samantha Dark, tells us how she came to be in this movie, and what it was like following in the classic tradition of being a “scream queen”. You can tell that she is someone who takes her work seriously, and it really comes out in her performance. Too many times today, I think the actors in horror movies don’t take the situations they are placed in seriously. They are in a movie and they don’t mind letting us know this. Samantha Dark seems like she could easily transition from horror to Hamlet.
I enjoyed this because it feels like you are really watching the film with the creators. Furthermore, they seem like they are really big fans of this movie. It isn’t in a pretentious way, they just seem like it was a great effort to get this movie made, and they are really enjoying being able to look back at their work. They seem to approach this commentary how they approached making this movie. Scene by scene they talk about the little things that ended up making Malevolence what it is.
Rehearsal Footage and Deleted Scenes
It is always nice seeing how the performance between actors was worked out, and then seeing how that performance was translated to the screen. The deleted scenes used here are interesting, but I am not that big a fan of them mainly because of they end up effecting my future viewings of the movie. If it is a movie that I loved since I was kid, then I don’t mind them so much because the film is already ingrained in my mind. For Malevolence, a new film in my collection, while seeing the deleted scenes were cool, I don’t know that they are that necessary.
Still Gallery and DVD ROM of the Original Screenplay
I would have loved to look at the pictures from this movie with a montage of the music from the movie underneath it. I think that that would have played amazingly well as I found some of the images(just a shot of the main house) to be creepy all by itself. If you have a DVD ROM on your computer, pop in a the disc of this DVD and have a ball reading the script that shows where Malevolence all started.
Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs. This movie, while made in the present day, even looks like an 80s horror film. In the way it was shot, the way it was lit and mainly the way the shots are composed. The killer is shot like Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers were shot when they were first introduced on screen. There isn’t any crazy imagery, and it seems like the shots were bent on obtaining substance over style. This isn’t to say that this movie doesn’t look great, it’s just that it isn’t over stylized. It doesn’t beat you over the head with horrific images over and over so that you eventually are numb to this film. It plays things very close to the vest, and doesn’t seem to mind taking it’s time to get where the story is going. The picture on this DVD looks so crisp and clean that I would love to have had a chance to screen this movie in a theater. My TV is very small and as a result I don’t think that it was able to present to me the true power of this movie. The DiviMax Hi Definition transfer process makes this movie look extraordinary.
It doesn’t say what type of sound is used with this movie, but lets just say that I was able to hear everything fine. I didn’t have to turn the sound on my TV up to a super high level, as everything played just fine as it was. Is there a soundtrack available for this movie? I love the mix of pulsating John Carpenter-type sounds, mixed with other music that sounds like A Nightmare on Elm Street and other horror movies of the 1980s. The music in this film does such an amazing job of creating a sense of tone and place, I absolutely loved it. It is so nice to see a horror movie that isn’t one big inside joke. That isn’t mocking the genre as it is telling the story. The people who made this movie really and truly love horror films, and I think they have done a very good job and created a movie that can stand right along side many of the films that influenced this one.
The packaging of this movie is also a cut above as well. Enclosed in a plastic covering with the house in which most of this story unfolds on the cover, this DVD immediately sets itself apart from the other horror movies on the shelves. The main cover shows a creepy image of a someone screaming, with the words ”No one gets out alive ... No one” underneath it. The image and writing is blurred to a chilling effect. The back features some more imagery from the movie as well as a listing of the extras that this DVD has to offer. This is a very dense DVD. Not just in what the movie itself is putting across but with the amount of extras that are included in it. This is why us DVD lovers really appreciate Anchor Bay. Sure, they release DVDs and then release special editions of those DVDs shortly after, but at least the special editions are legitimately special. There are extras that, if you are a fan of a film, you really want to have like a commentary track or an in depth making of the film. Anchor Bay seems to always deliver in this department.
Malevolence isn’t just a great horror movie but a great film period. I will not be surprised to see that it’s creators have moved on to films with bigger budgets. It seems that a movie like this would a be perfect entryway into showing the suits in Hollywood what you can do. And, if Mena and Co. can achieve the results that they have achieved with such little money, then it stands to reason that if they had a larger budget they could really amp things up. The thing is, even with their admitted limited funds, they have not made a movie that is small in anyway. This movie doesn’t look any different then the typical film that is coming to us from our friends at Dimension. I was actually quite surprised that they talked about how low budget this movie was, because everything about this film is well crafted and isn’t cheap looking at all. If they had never mentioned that they didn’t have a lot of money, I never would have thought this film was made on the cheap.
It is so nice to see a good horror movie. It’s nice to see a good movie period, but it is always nice to see a film like Malevolence that is well written, well made and tightly put together. I look forward to not only watching this film again and again, but I cannot wait to screen it for my friends.
Malevolence was released September 10, 2004.