Malevolence (2004) – By Duane L. Martin

Malevolence

n 1: wishing evil to others [syn: malignity] [ant: benevolence] 2: the quality of threatening evil [syn: malevolency, malice]

I must say that Malevolence was an appropriate title for this movie,
but probably not for the reason writer and director Stevan Mena
intended.

Malevolence is the story of four people who rob a bank and then split
up to avoid the cops. They’re supposed to meet up at this
abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere near a place that used to
be a slaughterhouse. What could go wrong? Well,
frankly…everything. One guy gets shot and dies on the way to
the house, and another guy gets a flat and then ends up carjacking a
minivan and kidnapping this mother and her daughter who were on their
way home from the daughter’s softball game.

Now before all this occurs, we’re given a back story of how back in
1989, Martin Bristol disappeared while playing on his backyard swing in
Minersville, Pennsylvania when he was six years old. Basically,
what happened to him is that he was kidnapped by the serial killer in
order to be trained as his successor. The boy was made to watch
the killer as he killed his victims one after another, eventually
leading up to a surprise ending that I won’t get into here.

The long and the short of it is, they rob a bank, they get to the house
at different times, they meet the serial killer, and people start
dying. That’s the movie in a nutshell. Sound
formulaic? Well in many ways it is, and typically that would mean
that the movie would end up being bad or boring, but fortunately it
ended up being neither. Now this movie, as most movies do, has
it’s good points and it’s bad points. There’s a lot of good
things that can be said about it, so I’ll cover those first before I
get to what was wrong with it.

The nicest thing about this film was that it had an indie look and feel
to it, but it had the added bonus that the director of photography was
a Japanese guy named Tsuyoshi Kimoto. What’s so special about
that? Well if you’ve ever seen a Japanese movie, you know that
they have a style of cinematography that tends to be much more visually
interesting than their American counterparts, and Tsuyoshi Kimoto’s
work was a stellar example of that. There are some shots in this
film that are extremely creepy, including one shot that was probably
one of the coolest I’ve ever seen. I don’t want to spoil it here,
but when you see it, you’ll know it. It’s one of those shots that
makes you say, "Daaaammmnnnn!" or "Awww crap!"

The music and sound were all well done, with only one exception that’s
really not all that important. There was just one sound at a
critical moment that was more grating and annoying than it was scary,
but fortunately it was quick and only lasted for a second. Other
than that, all was great on that front.

The settings are what really made the film stand out. The old
abandoned house and the abandoned (or so they though) slaughterhouse
were both straight up horror movie material. They looked like
something you’d see in a nightmare and really lent themselves to the
horror the filmmaker was trying to get across.

But with so much right about this movie, there’s one thing that really
annoyed me about it, and really kept it from being the great film it
could have been, and that’s the writing. A great film needs great
characters. Unfortunately, this one had characters who
collectively wouldn’t have enough IQ points to drool on themselves
properly.

It all started with the bank robbery. As they’re going in,
they’re putting their halloween masks on as they’re walking towards the
door, AND they have their guns out while they’re doing it. Why is
this stupid? Wellt he fact that they’re walking down a busy
street where everyone can see them walking towards the bank with their
guns out and no masks on is pretty stupid if you ask me. Then
they come out of the bank and as they’re running away past people on
the street again, they pull their masks off while they’re
running. Now for people that don’t want to get caught, they sure
did everything they could to leave witnesses around.

Next we have the idiot who got the flat on the way to the house.
He goes to a gas station and finds this minivan that he thinks is
empty. When he gets in, he discovers that there was a girl in the
back seat looking for her softball mitt. So what does he
do? Does he kick the girl out and steal the minivan like any
normal person would do? No! He hops in the back seat with
her and waits for the mother to come back and then kidnaps them both
and makes her drive them to the house where he then ties them up with
duct tape. Just a note about the mother and the daughter
too. The mother is hot and has a British accent. The
daughter looks nothing like the mother and has no hint of an accent at
all.

At some point shortly after they get there, the daughter manages to get
her hands free and escapes. The mother however was tied up with
duct tape through about two thirds of the movie, and even though she
was left alone for extended periods, never managed to get herself
free. Now how difficult would it have been to find a sharp corner
or something to bust the duct tape on and get her hands free? The
daughter didn’t seem to have any problem doing it.

Then there’s the fact that SEVERAL times they had the serial killer
down and knocked out and had every chance in the world to just finish
him off and put an end to it. Did they do it? No!
They just left him laying there and ran off. Now frankly, I don’t
care how scared you are. When you got someone trying to kill you
and you get them down and knocked out, you kill them.
Period. You don’t let them get up so they can keep coming after
you! That’s just stupid.

The long and the short of it is, this was a really good movie on pretty
much every technical level, but also one that could have benefitted
greatly by allowing the characters to be a little smarter.
Had this been the case, there could have been a great game of cat and
mouse between them and the serial killer. As it ended up, they
were all just pretty much easy prey. I would recommend seeing
this movie, but with a little asterisk footnote that you’ll probably be
sitting there much of the time thinking how stupid the characters are.

The disc itself has a lot of great special features including a behind
the scenes featurette, a commentary track, rehearsal footage, deleted
scenes, trailers, television and radio spots, a stills gallery, and if
you’re watching the movie on a computer, you can access the original
screenplay as well. The film was released by Anchor Bay (http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com) and is available pretty much anywhere. You can also check out the film’s website for trailers, music, news and more at http://www.malevolencemovie.com.