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.