Malevolence (DVD)

Starring Samantha Dark, R. Brandon Johnson, Heather Magee

Directed by Stevan Mena

Released by Anchor Bay Entertainment

It takes a lot to make an independent movie. I know that not because I’ve ever made one (though I have helped out on a few), but because I’ve been reviewing them for so long now I feel like I’m almost a part of the scene.

Stevan Mena would back me up on that statement. Having directed Malevolence over the course of a few years (not months, mind you, years), he went through some of the worst an indie director can go through and still come out alive. Not only did he survive, but he managed to make a pretty damn good horror movie, too.

The middle part of a planned trilogy, Malevolence is the story of a bank heist gone bad. One of the robbers is shot and dies along the way. One of them gets away in his own car and takes a mother and daughter hostage in order to secure transport to the designated meeting spot. The final two, a couple, end up at the abandoned farmhouse where they’re supposed to convene only to find a woman bound and gagged and most of the money missing.

Unbeknownst to any of the criminals, the house they chose to lay low in is just across the field from an abandoned slaughterhouse, where a serial killer has been living out his days, killing the random stranger that would happen upon his spot and doing God knows what with the bodies. As the body count rises and the chances of escape become slimmer and slimmer, will the movie live up to its “No One Gets Out Alive” tagline?

First up, it looks and sounds fantastic. Mena made the very wise (and very expensive) decision to shoot Malevolence on 35mm, automatically giving it a look that’s a cut above any other indie film out there. The 5.1 is especially effective when Mena’s score (yep, he did that too) kicks into high gear, and I can virtually guarantee that you’ll be jumping out of your seat with some of his music cues. So when you watch it, crank up the surround for the full experience.

”Back To The Slaughterhouse” is a 30-minute featurette about the making of the film, consisting mainly of an extended interview with Mena (with some brief moments from star Brandon Johnson) discussing the trials & tribulations that they went through to make the film, not to mention the revolving crew and how sometimes everything works out just right when it looks that most like it will far apart. Case in point: the slaughterhouse location. After almost a year of location scouting and trying to figure out how they could convert a factory into a slaughterhouse, they actually managed to find a real slaughterhouse that had been disused since the 1970’s. This is the location of our killer’s lair, and it’s very effectively used throughout. You can imagine they were all quite elated when they found this place.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the info on the featurette, but I’ll let you discover the rest for yourself.

Five or six deleted scenes are featured, but you won’t have the option to choose which ones you want to see because they’re run together. There’s no commentary over them, but you can see just by watching them why they were taken out, as they would have only served to slow the movie down in the end. There are also some radio and TV spots, all of which are pretty effective in terms of grabbing your interest, and the original trailer.

A 15-minute interview with star Samantha Dark is next up. She discusses everything from the casting process to the state of horror in general, and if you find her as gorgeous as I did (especially, I admit ashamedly, when tied up…) you won’t really care too much about what she’s discussing. All kidding aside, she does across as very nice and intelligent, and that British accent does nothing to detract from her overall allure.

Finally we have the commentary track with your hosts Stevan Mena (director), Brandon Johnson (star), and Eddie Akmal (producer). Though a lot of the same info that’s laid out in the “Back To The Slaughterhouse” featurette is repeated here, Mena’s got that kind of mellow, laid-back voice I could listen to for hours, so it’s never dull. Some great anecdotes are exchanged throughout, and everything from issues with the camera and film to the amount of time it can take to get one scene done is covered. Plus some more info about the planned prequel and sequel is revealed, though not a lot.

It’s pretty impressive the amount of space and promotion Anchor Bay has given this film, and although I’m sure some of you will find it just flat-out derivative of previous slasher films, you can’t argue that Mena’s got a skill and drive that could lead to some great things. He’s off to a great start.

4 out of 5

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Johnny Butane

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