Luckily there's this wonderful word that gets thrown around: "Tribute". One more word: "Homage". These words (and words like them) allow for such things as Science Fiction stories featuring swords made out of lasers, "American J-Horror" that evokes imagery from killer Pacific Legends and flicks without the word "Friday" in their titles to feature Summer Camps being terrorized by serial killers in Hockey Masks. However, I sympathize with Stevan Mena, the Writer, Director, Producer, Actor and Composer behind Malevolence. Like I said, those rip offs are as ubiquitous each summer as Lemonade at a picnic. Hell, ol' Brian DePalma liberally borrows from other films, why can't we?
Surprisingly, while this is not a good movie, Malevolence isn't a Dog either. Mena, like the best efforts of many an Independent Director, has had his good ideas abbreviated by a low budget. Mena has a lot of skills with the camera, which I didn't expect, and manages to create the one thing most "modern" horror movies lack: Mood. Unfortunately, he's not nearly as skilled with overcoming those budget limitations, or with handling actors.
Malevolence is the story of a small cadre of young people in need of cold cash, and are willing to go to the very lengths that any and all of the Reservoir Dogs went to. And yeah, they all split up, one of them gets shot in the gut, and they make it (limping) to their "Safe House". Yeah, we saw that before. Unfortunately, this "Safe House" is almost as safe as the house in Dead Birds. Right next door is an abandoned... what is it... boiler room, Freedomland School, just some building... I don't know. What I do know is that every and all possible sign is practically flashing at the audience and the actors that some idiot lunatic is inside just waiting to reclaim the term "physical graffiti". You've got the rusty, abandoned cars (some current), the overgrown weeds, the shapes in the window, the fresh blood on the meat hook, more bones than you'd find in YORICK's neighborhood... guys, it's either this, or it's my Dad's friend Mr. Richard. Actually, I wouldn't put it past ol' Mr. Richard either.
The fun begins when one of the jackass thieves takes two hostages, and one (Courtney Bertalone's Courtney Harrison) escapes at the behest of the other (her sometimes British mother Samantha Dark's Samantha Harrison). It rather makes sense that she runs to the only other place in the area, and leads the kidnapper straight into the arms of the familiar killer.
From that point, each camper... I mean, bank robber, is picked off in various... well, not various... in almost identical ways by the silent, seemingly indestructible killer. Incidentally, that killer's outfit (thanks to one of the thieves) consists of an set of coveralls, like Michael Myers' in Halloween and a pillow case with holes in it, like Jason Voorhees' in Friday the 13th part 2. So... was a Freddy Claw unavailable? Hot DAMN! Yeah, I kept looking for evidence that this was actually a part of the Bloody Murder Franchise!
What can I say, but THANK GOODNESS for One Life to Live's R. Brandon Johnson, whose Benevolent Bank Robber Julian befriends sweet Samantha (inconsistent accent and all) and proves that inconsistency is the norm in this flick. It all leads up to an overly explanatory ending that feels less like an epilogue than a desperate scramble to throw in some ideas Mena couldn't find any other place for.
Still, Mena might have a good movie in his future. While this one isn't it, Mena's got an interesting eye that evokes some of the more moody and experimental themes of the 1970's. That's not to say he's there yet, but his directing isn't the biggest flaw here. Further, while his score compositions are just as derivative as the story, however, he makes the weird Theremin-like sounds work. Sadly, the acting is bad and the story is unoriginal and the special effects are about what you'd expect from a budget like this. Two Stars out of Five for Malevolence... probably higher praise than most viewers would give it. Make no mistake, this is a bad movie. Very bad. But, if this film had been made, just like this, back in 1971 or something, I'd imagine it might have obtained a cult following. Now, instead, it's pretty adequate for Video Store Owners to hawk their merchandise to drunk 19 year olds at 11 PM on Saturdays. See you in the next reel, Malevolent One!
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