Mena, Stevan (Malevolence)


I remember when I first heard of Malevolence it was one of those ideas that just jumped at me. It takes something special for us to give attention to an indie movie, especially in this day and age, and I just felt that Malevolence had it.

Thankfully, I was right. The film is very well done and shows great talent in its creation and execution, and Anchor Bay liked it enough to not only make it their first (albeit limited) theatrical release, they kicked a lot of ass with the DVD.

I recently corresponded with director Stevan Mena about all the ins and outs of making the film and where you go from here…

Johnny Butane: How did the idea for Malevolence, the entire three parts, originate?

Stevan Mena: When I was writing Malevolence, Scream was really hitting a nerve with people, and there was a rush of copycats. And people, especially critics were declaring that horror was dead. Scream killed it. Well, I knew horror wasn’t dead, it just…went away for a while. I don’t think the genre ever dies, I think that good films are just few and far between.

They said that the conventions had all been exposed, and people couldn’t take horror seriously. Well, this pissed me off, because it wasn’t that audiences couldn’t take horror films seriously anymore, it was the films themselves that didn’t take themselves serious. Everything was a mixture of comedy and horror. Kill/joke/ repeat. Add in the WB cast, and yeah, ok, you’ve killed horror. This degenerated into the pg-13 stuff we’re being force fed for demographics, and finally, the ultimate insult, the remake.

A lot of people have criticized Malevolence for paying homage to 70’s horror classics. But there was a very specific point I was trying to make. I wanted true horror fans to hopefully get snapped out of the trance Hollywood has put us in and say, oh yeah, shit! That’s why those old films were scary.

That’s why horror was better THEN, and why it sucks NOW. That’s what’s been missing! My twist was to add drama. The bank robbery subplot replaced the kids having sex and doing drugs, updating the formula for the more sophisticated audiences today.

I think Hollywood is trying to do what I tried to do, except of course instead of trying to implement some of the old with a new twist, they just take the lazy way out and remake the old classics. At least Malevolence tried to add something new.

Anyway, watching Malevolence, it’s obvious what type of horror films I like. You can see influences from Ridley Scott’s Alien, Halloween, Texas, Nightmare on Elm Street, and especially Psycho.

The story of Malevolence itself came from research I was doing for another script about the effects of our surroundings on our psychological development. I posed the question of whether serial killers are born bad, or could they be turned into killers by the influences of their environment? That seed bloomed into the idea for the story. Some of the film was inspired by true events, and the bank robbery idea came from a drama I was working on about a group of bank robbers, and one of the bank robbers is terminally ill, and pulls off the heist so that his family will be taken care of. Guess which character that became in Malevolence. Ha-ha.

JB: You’ve always said Malevolence was the middle part of a trilogy. Why’d you decide to film this one first, and what can we expect from the other two?

SM: I shot the middle first because I can’t count. No, actually it was a creative decision. The prequel really delves deep into the horrific tragedy of Martin Bristol and what turned him into a killer. And for Malevolence 2 (current) to work as a slasher, I felt that the killer **Spoiler**(Martin), needed to be a mystery. I felt that if you knew too much about him, he wouldn’t be as frightening. But now that I’ve introduced him the way I have, I think people will be interested to see how he got this way in the first place.

People can expect Malevolence 2 to be VERY dark and NOTHING like the current film. In the prequel we will lift the dirty old mattress and see the worms and filth underneath.

The final film explores the possibility of unleashing Martin into the world. He gets a job at a car wash, then– no, wait, he kills more unsuspecting people. Nice people who didn’t deserve to die prematurely.

Actually, Part 3 follows Martin as he returns to the place from where he was abducted. Draw your own conclusions for now…

JB: Intriguing, I have to say. Will they all keep the Malevolence moniker, as things stand now?

SM: Yes they will. The entire thing is really one long story, just told in three episodes.

The point I was making really is that people shouldn’t go into the Malevolence prequel and expect more of the same. What is exciting to me about the trilogy is each story stands on its own.

JB: So let’s step back a minute; first off, where did the rather ambitious idea for making not one but three horror films originate?

SM: Well, it never did. I wrote one long story and then realized I couldn’t condense it all into a 100-page script. So I decided to tell one part of it. I felt the most accessible part was where Martin is turned loose. The truth surrounding how he got that way seemed really graphic, and honestly I wasn’t sure that was a movie people would want to sit through. I’m still not sure. But since so far Malevolence has been well received, people might want to enter the ugliness of the beginning and explore that chapter.

I often laugh at some of the negative reviews the film has received, critics who condemn Malevolence for not having much of a storyline. And there I was trying to figure out where to stuff this War and Peace slasher into 90 minutes. I want to lash out and say, wait, you don’t have a clue…But then I realize that how could they, unless they have all the pieces in front of them. So I guess I can’t blame them, but hopefully they will see the whole picture someday.

JB: What made you decide, as an independent filmmaker, that the best thing to do with zero money and a questionable cast was to shoot on 35mm (which, arguably was a fantastic decision)?

SM: I wanted to stand out from other no budget filmmakers who were all shooting digital video.

JB: I guess that’s simple enough, isn’t it? Aside from making the film look far more professional than most indies, how do you think this helped he eventual success of the movie?

SM: Shooting on 35 gave us a level of professionalism that made it easier for distributors to consider. There were no worries about the costs of blow up, what the end result would be as far as quality. It was ready to go, just run some prints and head to the theater. That was very appealing to distributors.

JB: How did you go about getting studio interest once the film was done?

SM: We first hired a sales agent, but that didn’t work out, so we entered a few festivals. After we won several best feature awards, many distributors approached us. We decided to go with Anchor Bay because they were so enthusiastic, and they are the kings of horror.

JB: Did they plan to use Malevolence as their first theatrical release from the get-go or did that come down the road?

SM: They approached us with that in mind, saying they thought it was the perfect film for Anchor Bay to make their jump into theatrical releasing, and that it was just the type of film they had been searching for to make their debut. They also liked that the film had been kind of underground and under the radar until they acquired it.
Anchor Bay, now backed by IDT, stands to become the next Lions Gate. They have big plans, and I think genre fans should be real excited; they truly are the real deal, a horror distributor run by real horror fans. I’m totally psyched they picked my debut to be their debut!

JB: It is a pretty big honor, indeed! Have they talked to you about helping out with financing for the prequel and sequel?

SM: Yeah, we’ve been in discussions on that. Right now we’re just trying to wade through the theatrical release and then the DVD release. When things calm down, I think production talks will be brought to the forefront.

JB: We’ll wrap it up here, that was a great way to end it all, but I just have one more. If, for whatever reason, the sequel and prequel don’t happen right away, are there any other films you’re looking to make?

SM: I’m currently working on several new scripts outside of Malevolence. One is a ghost story, and one is a supernatural thriller. I’ve had several offers to make other films, but for now I have too much in my own head to take on anything else. Unless it’s something really exciting. We’ll see!

Thanks a lot to Mr. Mena for taking the time to chat with us, and for making such a cool indie film. The DVD was released on April 19th, so make sure you pick it up through Evilshop if you haven’t already!

Discuss Malevolence in our forums!



Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter