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Malevolence

This MALEVOLENCE is from 2003, not my preferred era of slasher picture, but it was recommended to me by a weirdo, I’d never heard of it before and I didn’t know anything about it. Seemed like a decent lead. Turns out it’s a low budget horror thing but it mixes in a little bit of a true crime influence. It starts out with a kid being kidnapped in 1989, bringing back memories of all those gloomy based-on-a-true-story-if-you-have-seen-a-missing-kid-call-this-1-800-number TV movies from the ’80s. I thought oh shit, did some motherfucker convince me to rent a movie about kids getting tied up in a shed? But then it quickly switches it up and skips ahead ten years.

Some guys are robbing a bank, and their rendezvous point afterwards is an isolated, abandoned house… which they don’t know is by the abandoned slaughterhouse where that kidnapper took that kid in the prologue. And this is just one possibility I’m offering to you here, but maybe there is still a psycho wandering around that area that those guys might run into? Could be. Nobody knows. Could go either way.

That premise reminds me of SCARECROWS (bank robbers hide out in farmhouse attacked by supernatural scarecrows) and THE COLLECTOR (guy breaks into house that turns out to be booby trapped by rejected SAW sequel). I like these premises, but neither of those movies are very good, and this is in that same tradition. But it has its moments. I like what it’s going for I guess.

The immediate problem is that none of the leads are remotely likable or very believable as criminals or human life forms. The idea is that the main guy is relatable because he had a big gambling debt or something and got dragged into the robbery by his girlfriend whose brother is a crazy asshole and then there’s another guy that’s even more of a crazy asshole. That guy splits up from the group like Mr. Blonde and shows up at the rendezvous first, in a mini-van he carjacked from a gas station, complete with a young softball player and her mom. So at least we have somebody to root for now, the mom and kid that are tied up.

I like that the kid just looks like somebody on the production’s daughter, not a Hollywood kid. But she doesn’t have much of a screen presence or authentic feel, and neither do the adults. That’s a problem. Still, I was happy when she hit the killer with her baseball bat. Hopefully that made up for her disappointment about her performance in the actual game earlier.

The movie picks up a little toward the end when it gets done with all the plot mechanics (thieves arguing, hostages trying to escape, psychopath killing Mr. Blonde and wearing his mask, main guy feeling bad and untying hostages) and just turns into a straight HALLOWEEN ripoff. Specifically it seems inspired by the climax of HALLOWEEN with Michael chasing Laurie through the house, although there’s also nods to TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE (slaughterhouse, ritualistic bone art) and the killer wears a pillowcase or something with eye holes torn in it, so he looks like Jason in part 2 or the guy in THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN. The score (by writer-director Stevan Mena) is retro synthesizer sounds with stings very similar to the ones in HALLOWEEN.

They even lift the often-forgotten moment in HALLOWEEN where the mask comes off and you see Michael’s face for a second. I’m gonna say SPOILER but I would be surprised if anybody was surprised by the identity of the killer. It turns out it’s the now-16-year-old kidnap victim, having now killed the kidnapper and taken over the business. Despite the lack of shock it’s an effective moment because the kid really looks completely out of it, his eyes not focusing on anything, like he’s off somewhere else. The creepiest thing in the movie for sure.

And I kinda like the epilogue on this movie. It’s an unnecessary PSYCHO type exposition dump, but it’s cool because usually (like in HALLOWEEN and the FRIDAY THE 13THs for example) you get to the final showdown and then the story ends. It’s novel to see the police arriving on the scene and having to figure out what happened. They start pulling out bodies from before the slasher movie we just saw, they read from a journal that explains a little bit about the kid. It’s the one original part of the movie and the best executed.

When I looked up Mena to find out what else he’d done I found out he did this movie called BEREAVEMENT that I remember Michael Biehn promoting when it came out not too long ago. And then when I read about that one I realized it’s about this same kidnapped kid… this movie has a prequel! So, I guess that’s next. The search continues…


VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Friday, October 12th, 2012 at 1:39 am and is filed under Crime, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

7 Responses to “Malevolence”

  1. This movie blows, but BEREAVEMENT is actually pretty good. I’m not sure who on this planet was asking for a prequel to this stupid movie, but it somehow worked out really well.

  2. ‘recommended to me by a weirdo’….that is highly intriguing. tell us about the weirdo Vern! this review must have a prequel!

  3. “oh shit, did some motherfucker convince me to rent a movie about kids getting tied up in a shed?”

    You really need a job writing Taglines.

    Armageddon
    – “Oh shit, did some motherfucker convince me to watch a movie about seizures?”

  4. I saw Bereavement first so when I got to Malevolence I couldn’t believe they were related. Malevolence is a steaming pile of shit while Bereavement has good acting and directing. Although, in many ways, Bereavement sucks just as much.

  5. I really dug BEREAVEMENT. I covered on my blog last October during my annual horror movie marathon.

    http://danandthemovies.blogspot.com/2011/10/bereavement.html

    It was far from perfect, but I thought it had an effective melancholy atmosphere, and reasonably well-developed characters that you actually gave a shit about when they got killed.

  6. Vern![gasp]…. new…….. movie! Seven…………. Psycho……. paths! onthewall2983 ventured back in time to……… In Bruges talkback……….. to get your……. attention.

    As did I. We know you’re busy, but this one’s worth a pause in your Halloween buildup cause. Even if Fred “The Dorf/Dorfman” Topel gave it a thumbs down [fool].

    Anyway, here’s hoping you give it some love. It’s tantamount to (I have no better way of putting this) a snapdog O’Jays song released in the midst of a bunch of Commodore numbers.

  7. So… in the mail yesterday I received a DVD from my homeboy Jamaal (whom I met when living in Paterson, NJ), with a note that said “I dare your dumb white ass to hold off watching this before Halloween”.

    Sorry, Jamaal… I was weak, and I watched it. Perhaps against my better judgement. It’s a 2002 release titled Special, and it’s a weird one. It’s (ostensibly) a maladjusted feel-good movie about this retarded retard named Gronk (no relation to the New England Patriots star tight end Rob Gronkowski), but it veers off into much more grim territory.

    OK, to begin with… Gronk himself. He’s a pizza delivery boy on a bicycle, age mid-20’s (like Tobey MacSpiderman, but without superpowers and the eventual Kirsten Dunst coochie conquest) who lives in NYC with his aunt Trudy (Julie Warner) and her husband, an Andrew Dice Clay impersonator (WTF?) played by Kevin Corrigan. He began life as a prom night dumpster baby who was pawned off onto his mom’s sister, so he feels neglected. Way it goes, dude.

    Interim note: Gronk is played by this guy named Gerald Mullen, who has but one acting credit on IMDB. I got the impression that he wasn’t an actual actor, but not an actual retard either. His facial features don’t indicate Down’s Syndrome, but maybe he had [has] Tourette’s or Asperger’s, or whatever Syndrome was fashionable in the early 2000’s. I’m tempted to think the director (Thomas Pernau) told him to just be himself, but pull it back 10-15% so as to avoid going full-retard. Regardless, it’s uncanny.

    But as time/space continuum luck would have it, he’s not packin’ a Pez dispenser… he’s hung like a moose, and horny as all get out. Fortunately the camera only lingers twice on his tentpole, but his need for poontang *seems* to be the movie’s driving force. At one point early on he’s seen watching a DVD of Full Metal Jacket, the part where Joker’s homeboy comments about Handjob “jerkin’ off ten times a day”, and we see Gronk nodding in agreement at Dorian Harewood’s concurring “At least ten times… that ain’t no shit neither”.

    Gronk needs to bust a load like it’s nobody’s business. But because he’s retarded, Gronk doesn’t know how to spank the monkey. Bummer, hoss.

    Meanwhile, there’s a serial killer loose in NYC who’s cutting off the heads of crack baby mothers, and then placing their severed heads in the cribs of said babies (he’s tagged as “CBK”— Crack Baby Killer). Gnarly.

    Fortunately these (3) scenes are edited in a way similar to the shower scene in Psycho. It’s all trimmed down to: machete/woman’s head/machete/woman’s severed head/machete dripping blood/severed head placed in crib. No Danny Trejo involvement BTW, if any of you were thinking that.

    As the murders reach a peak, Gronk and his pseudoparents move to Ft. Lauderdale, FL. As luck (or filmatistic co-inkydink) would have it, the NYPD detective (Barry Bostwick, in a stellar turn) who’s investigating these crimes goes on vacation with the wife & kids… to Disney World (which is in Orlando, nowhere near South Florida).

    And that’s the last we see of him, aside from a few random shots of him and the family at Epcot Center. Go figure.

    After Gronk and his family relocate to Florida, he gets a job at this greasy spoon restaurant called Miami Subs. He’s still horny as hell, but then one night he wanders into a titty bar, gets all worked up, makes a weak play for the hoochie dancer onstage, and then gets the shit kicked outta him in the parking lot by a local redneck named Bubba Sessions (Elden Hanson). As he looks up at the bully, all bloody & shaken, he asks (in a clear homage to Seagal’s On Deadly Ground): “What will it take… to change essence of Gronk?”. To which Bubba replies: “Time… and one mad dog brain surgeon”. True dat.

    Shortly thereafter, Gronk meets a dirty tramp named Lenora (played by a Christina Ricci-lookalike named Dolores Susan Miller) who’s blind, or so she claims. This is one of the movie’s stickling points. She’s not one of those noble blind people depicted in movies whose affliction makes her somehow angelic, rising above the hindrance in a heroic way, blah blah. No, instead she constantly bitches about it, especially in one scene at a Starbucks where she bleats “For fuck’s sake… I’m BLIND! I can’t see SHIT, you moron!”… while wildly swinging her white cane to & fro.

    She meets Gronk, toys with him, and taunts him by calling him Gronkykins” and “My Little Gronykpoo”. Added to which, she smokes constantly and is an irresponsible smoker who (against the better angels of nicotine nature) flicks her smoldering butts in random directions, causing fires in trashcans, dumpsters, and in one horrific set piece a baby carriage (regular baby; not a crack baby).

    Eventually she relents in her constant taunting of Gronk, and fulfills him by nailing him in the butt with a strap-on, but with the kindness of giving him a reach-around as she does so. This whole scene plays out in slo-mo, with weird Tangerine Dream-type synth music, as if it were mimicking Rebecca De Mornay riding Tommy Boy’s bologna pony in Risky Business.

    So, as Gronk & Lenora settle into this dominant/submissive relationship, wouldn’t you just know it… CBK turns up in Ft. Lauderdale. The local police connect the dots and put Gronk and his family under surveillance, but this yields nothing. As CBK’s new murder spree reaches a fever pitch, Gronk befriends a stray kitten named Maurice he finds rummaging for scraps in the Miami Subs dumpster. Maurice (who’s telepathic) imparts a riddle to Gronk that CBK is:
    1.)Lenora.
    2.)Gronk’s bio-Dad, who killed his Mom years ago after she went on a two-week crack binge.
    3.)The guy who played Urkel on the TV show Family Matters.
    4.)None of the above.

    But (and here we go again), being the retard that he is, Gronk can’t put it together. The movie ends with Maurice wandering off in disgust, as Gronk wipes salty tears from his eyes, with Lenora yelling at him to “forget that fucking cat, and get your ass back inside, bitch!”. Some resolution would’ve been nice, but I guess that was too much to hope for.

    Anyway, it’s worth a look, if only as a supreme oddity.

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