Malevolence (2005) Review

Malevolence Review
by Jesse Miller,

I’ll start this review off by saying that I loved Malevolence, the film debut of Stevan Mena. I absolutely loved it – it was a horror film made for me. Every aspect worked for me – the look of the film, the feel of the film, the acting, writing, directorial style, and cinematography – every miniscule detail.
I can’t think of an aspect here in this film that I felt didn’t work because all of it did for me.

The film begins to the eerie sound of howling wind and booming thunder, with a brief statement that describes how in the last year, three hundred thousand children were reported missing in the United States. Shortly after this, another statement appears informing the audience of the abduction of six-year-old Martin Bristol from his backyard in 1989. From there, the film truly opens with a nasty, unsettling prologue that sets the tone for the following film.

Jumping to 1999, Malevolence introduces the audience to a group of four bank robbers staging a heist. Beforehand, they all agree that if they get separated in the inevitable chaos, they should rendezvous at an abandoned farmhouse in the countryside. Inevitably, chaos does ensue and Bank robber Kurt (Richard Glover) is separated from the group. Unfortunately on the way to the meeting point, his car breaks down and he flees to the nearby gas station.

There he takes a mother and daughter hostage and continues driving onwards to the meeting point. Meanwhile, the other bank robbers continue driving onward. Little do they all know, something or someone is lurking around the countryside, watching and waiting for the perfect time to strike.

Malevolence brought to mind fond memories of watching a great 80’s slasher film.
It both looks and feels like it came directly out of those times - From the cinematography, to the musical score that evokes John Carpenter’s iconic work on Halloween, to the slightly hammy acting.

Even the silent killer, donned in a jumpsuit and wearing a sheet over it’s head, calls to mind Jason Voorhees circa Friday the 13th: Part II and Michael Myers.
It’s because of these aspects why I can understand how the film received negative reviews, why many disliked it because they felt it was borrowing too heavily from older slasher films.

It’s also because of these very reasons why I absolutely loved this film.
Every element comes together in bloody harmony for me – I love 80’s horror films, and I love their vibe.

There are those who criticize the acting for being a little melodramatic and cheesy and yes, it can be at times, but I feel this aspect adds to the film’s charms.
It’s also a testament to the performances and writing here that I become invested in these characters that I care about whether they live or die – both hostage and bank robber – when I know so little about who these people are.

Adding to the suspense and horror is the frightening, moody and atmospheric score composed by Mena. As a horror fan that particularly keeps his ear out for the music when watching a horror film – or any film in general -, I feel this is one aspect I should address – it’s fantastic. It’s reminiscent of Carpenter at times with the haunting minimalist piano work and ominous synth work but it also crafts some really disconcerting work of it’s own. It’s also a breath of fresh air that this score doesn’t rely too heavily on scaring you via a musical sting.

Stevan Mena masterfully crafts the horror and builds the suspense quite effectively, refusing to let up till that final shot. I always like observing how the director orchestrates the scares in their films and have grown tired of that musical sting. The scares here are quite frightening, whether it be the reveal of animal and human bones forming a skeleton on a wall or the ghostly appearance of the killer from the darkness.

There have been few modern horror films for me that can capture that magic of the slasher film. Malevolence is one of those films. If you’re a fan of slasher films, 80’s horror films or just the genre alone, I highly recommend you track this beauty down, you won’t regret it.

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